Free Fiction:Broken Marble Cherry Bowl by Dan A. Cardoza

Broken Marble Cherry Bowl By Dan A. Cardoza

Grande Nonno died making a living, like Papa. He was born with his blue denim sleeves rolled up. 

He and Grande Nonna are buried just a few miles south of the Apuan Mountains on the Alps’ Italian side. They’ve been rotting away in a small village cemetery near the town of Caravaggio. Caravaggio, Italy, is in the province of Bergamo, in Lombardy, Italy, 40 kilometers northeast of Milan’s municipality. 

Carrara is in central Italy. Carrara is in the provinces of Massa and Carrara. The region is famous for the white and blue-grey marble quarried there. The brilliant, almost translucent blue and grey exist as arteries and veins, frozen in memoriam. The Carrione River gushes in the winter through the canyons of the region. Flash floods in the spring have been known to cleanse citizens clear out into the Ligurian Sea. 

At first glance, the Apuan Alps of northwest Tuscany’s Carrara region are pure white. You can imagine snow being born in the high castle crags. 

Early train travelers through the regional mountains had been cautioned of the risk of blindness due to marble dust and glare from all the whiteness. The talc of powder is said to be under the control of no other than the wind, a stiff wind that wants nothing to do with humankind.

Most travel guides, even today, will tell you the Carrara region is famous for three things: marble, anarchy, and pig fat. This unlikely trio is intertwined as deeply as the mineral veins striating the marbled mountains. 

Since ancient Roman times, Carrara’s Apuan Alps have supplied marble for some of the world’s most prized sculptures. Carrara is the marble of Michelangelo’s Pietà, Jean-Antoin Houdin’s George Washington, and New Delhi’s vast Akshardham Temple. The stone is blessed with luminosity, its networks of blue arteries and veins, nature’s psychological Rorschach test ranges from grayish to purple. In monolithic form, it can support the sky, like Half-Dome in Yosemite, California. It has been winnowed down into the translucence of light itself in thin slabs, a fitting lid on an iridescent coffin. 

My name is David. I’m a little softer than marble but much colder. It’s taken a while to get here, but that’s what you get when you grow up in the middle of a nightmare.

This story isn’t so much about me. It’s mostly about us. Yes, dear reader, you and me, us humans, with all our ugliness, beauty, and pain. It’s about the idiosyncrasies and occasional flaws of raising children, children whose only intent is to live, once born. There’s not one baby book available online or in a storefront about how to raise a monster. I can assure you, the parents that know how-to, don’t need any damned instructions.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a wonderful life, especially now that I’ve lived alone for just over a decade. Papa and Mamma are back in Northern Italy, going on eleven years now. They will be back, not to worry. In most ways, they’ve never really left. They are like shadows that remain hidden, but for midnight. 

When I say that they are not really being gone, by that, I mean there are very few places in this run-down house where they don’t exist. And, outside, they are out there too. 

Papa is in the drippy faucet, the one he couldn’t fix. And so I put up with it, and wait. It’s just off their bedroom, on the second floor. Now that they’re gone, I sleep in their queen. Papa is in the crazy garden. Jesus, it’s insanely productive. Most of us Italian’s are birthed with green thumbs. He’s no exception. Hell, he’s placed enough bullshit in the dirt to turn the backyard into a greenhouse. The soil can’t help itself. It’s rich and loamy. 

He’s in the tomato stakes, the ones he used his machete to ax into six-foot lengths. The stakes are round and made out of two-inch dried bamboo. He uses four to stand up the cages, cages meant to confine the beautiful green and red of the plants. Papa makes the wire cages too. It seems he makes everything except the water. In July, once the plants have taken hold, he uses the iron enclosures to jail all the tomatoes with cheap labor until they are forced to ripen. 

The rake, he’s damned well in it. Papa’s in the sweaty oil on the tacky handle. He’s also in the missing hickory slivers that have ended up in his callused palms. I can even feel him in the shovel, the square, and the round one. Papa’s strong hands are there, the ones that he’d forced around my throat. 

The rounded shovel has a grave digger’s blade, having killed a rat or two. It acts as guillotines and can be used to take out Napoleon’s armies of screaming tomato worms, as well as any meandering garden snake.  

Father is in the pantry, more stubborn than any simile. I swear to it. He’s in the ugly green wooden cabinet, the cabinet built onto one of the garage walls. He had inherited from the previous homeowners. Papa was there when he smashed the planked wooden door on my curious fingers after he’d carelessly left it unlocked. He was as quiet as a panther in the single-car parking space. 

He’d reinforced the shelves, “extra support never hurt nuthin’, he’d said. If I catch you climbing up them again, I’ll crack your eardrums open like a walnut shell.” 

Brandied cherries, thorny blackberries, and drunken raisins, a container of bay leaves, dried leaves broad enough to cover your crotch, they’re all in there, his damned pantry, canned jars of minestrones soups, pickled venison with bone broth, broth he’d used to boil meat off a cats ribs. 

I love Papa. I can’t get enough of him, even though he’d never taught me a damned thing or showed an ounce of affection. He’d beaten me so hard once. He used a messy summer fly-swatter. The kids at school teased me for more than a week. They’d called me porch-face because of the clumsy screen door in the back of the house. I wouldn’t dare tell them the truth. Don’t get me wrong, I truly love him, Papa, way over in Italy, but if not for the distance, I’d kill him.

Trouble in Italy

It’s like when ivory Domino’s fall, Italy. 

One after the other, first cousin Adrianna broke her back. She’d been living taking care of Nonno and Nonna in their two bedroom inherited cottage. Winter had been a bastarda that year. Those cloudy Cumuli scoundrels just wouldn’t let up or leave. 

The storms had come over the ice-box Apuan Mountains like some uninvited frost-bitten diesel train. They huffed and puffed their swollen blue faces, clean out of Switzerland and Austria. The back stoop and steps had frozen. 

In the last atmospheric disturbance, Adrianna had forgotten all their scratchy linens she’d hung out on the clothesline in the AM. When she’d clipped on the wooden clothespins, there had been sunshine, clawing itself over the horizon. The landscape was frozen, but the fragile sunrays had been as dry as a church mouse fart.

She’d seen them as flags, all the sheets, and towels. They’d flapped parallel in the same direction of the sleet. If the sky hadn’t been so windy, they might have frozen all their stiffness in place. 

Both feet had come out from underneath her hefty girth. She attempted to scoot across the stoop and down a short run of stairs. Adrianna’s heard the crunch before, the time she’d chopped fresh kindling for the cottage’s cast iron stove. She’d cracked her cervical spine in three places.

The medicohe had ordered rest and that she lay as stiff as a corpse for at least two months. I don’t know what in the hell they call them in Italy, but the doctor had also thrown a shitload of Benzodiazepines at her to “uplift her mood,” he’d said. 

Adrianna had sounded as if she was a happy zombie. She’d begun to slur her words. So, she used the neighbor on the other end of the phone. This neighbor lady, Arelia, was one of a few in the village who knew broken English. Adrianna had stirred up the whole neighborhood with her high maintenance and melodramatics, most likely from her being high. 

In short order, Arelia, the helpful neighbor, quit. She’d had enough of nursing Arianna, as well as cooking and feeding Nonno and Nonna. She’d shouted in Italian when she’d left the cottage for the last time, “I’m not going to be used as some kind of crazy finger puppet.” That’s when mother and father’s trip was a done deal.

Hearing all this, mother and father had jumped on the first international flight out of San Francisco to Milan. Apparently, Caravaggio, Italy is another Hotel California, like the Eagles’ hit song, once you arrive, you can never leave. 

By god, nothing was going to happen to Nonno and Nonna. My parents had too much invested, not the least the thirty-odd dollars they’d sent to Italy every month.  

I’m sure their leaving had nothing to do with any future inheritance. 

Back at the House

Although Mamma is in Italy, she’s never really left the house. 

She’s in the pasta sauce she taught me to make: Butt loads of fresh garlic, a pinch of brown sugar, a teaspoon of vinegar, fresh basil, Papa’s rusty tomatoes, and her secret weapon, Italian ground sausage with fennel. There are enough jars of Mamma’s pasta sauce in the green pantry to fill up a Venetian Gondola. I almost forgot, add about ½ cup of tawny port wine, not the cooking kind. In Northern Italy, that’s how we roll.

She’d used her intoxicating pasta sauce and pasta to keep papa fat and uncomfortable, too uncomfortable for kinky sex. 

Mamma had been the Comet shine in the scratched porcelain sink. I’m messy. She cleaned the kitchen floor good enough to eat off, vacuumed the rug in front of the big screen TV, left wheel marks resembling perfectly furrowed OCD rows of corn, truer than any in Kansas. I have stacks of dirty dishes on the coffee table. The washer broke, and now I’m using the dishwasher to clean all my clothes.  

I almost forgot, Mamma is down the drain in the bathtub and out the sewer pipes, swimming toward the mainline. Everything she ever did is out there. I hope the witch stays in Italy, never comes home.

Mamma’s into saving. She’s a penny-pincher. 

She’d hoarded change, mainly the spare dimes she could fit into Papa’s discarded whiskey and cognac, Toro Gordo see-through tubes. The nasty cigars never left his mouth. Each tube was gifted at storing their designated dimes, each dime held snugly in its place. Dimes were tight, seemingly pinching themselves into place, each dime a fool, should they even think of leaving the nested affection.  

I’ve spent every one of those Mercury-headed sons-a-bitches, those President Franklin D. Roosevelt, In God We Trust counterfeit dimes. Money is evil. It needed to be punished. I gave them all away at the Thunder Valley Casino, just north of Sacramento. It had taken a lot of liquor, anger, and time to spend the forty-eight tubes of stolen dimes. Losing had never felt so good. Returning at 3:00 AM Saturday morning, I’d slept most of the weekend away, having gorged on an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Canning

With COVID and all, and since Mamma’s cooking is in Italy, I’ve taken up canning. 

Canning has become extremely popular with my generation. I am a millennial. It’s a safe, effective, and simple process, and it’s crazy inexpensive. Mother made me inexpensive, cheap enough to toss away if she could have gotten away with it. She gave me to Papa, expecting he’d use me up. I hate her as much as sin, with her all her paternal conspiracies. 

People can take advantage of canning to preserve just about anything: fruits, peaches, plums, thorny and bloody blackberries picked in the boiling sun, along the Yuba River, vegetables, soups, sauces, and meats, damned right, all kinds of proteins.

In the late 1700s, that crazy war genius, Napoleon Bonaparte, commissioned a regional search for a better method to preserve food. He believed that “An army travels on its stomach.” 

He was looking for a less expensive and more efficient way to feed his armies. He intended to make food last longer and give his armies nutritional food, meat to build up their strength. Their heritage of strength is what allowed the troops to perform more of their carnage in all the battles. And so Napoleon proposed a hefty bounty to anyone who could come up with a better method of preserving food in quantity, with a long shelf life, even though most of Napoleon’s soldiers had a limited expiration date. 

A genius named Nicholas Appert had claimed the prize, though it took until 1810 for him to perfect his discovery. But like most time-proven inventions used for the military, it would take about fifty years before the methodology and know-how would trickle down to the average family. Think of Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars. 

By 1858, this brilliant, cylindrically shaped man, John Mason, had invented the iconic, reusable “Mason Jar.” The Mason jar is the gold standard of canning, even today.

The best thing momma taught me before she left was how to can. I do thank her for that if nothing else, and I will be grateful to her for the rest of my life.

The Supplies:

  1. Boiling water bath canner or a large, deep sauce pot with a lid and a rack
  2. Glass preserving jars, lids, and bands (always start with new lids)
  3. Common kitchen utensils, such as a wooden spoon, ladle, and paring knife
  4. Quality ingredients (fresh fruits and vegetables)
  5. Jar lifter
  6. Home canning funnel
  7. Bubble freer and headspace tool

I admit it’s become an obsession, canning. It’s been more than a hot minute, well, over ten years now, since Papa and Mamma left for Italy. I might have to whisper, but I think I’m a better canner than my missing Mamma. You heard me right. Mamma went missing while in Italy. She’s still missing. 

If I sound a little matter of fact, well, for Christ-sakes, I am. I don’t miss her a bit. Hell, she’s everywhere I turn in this two-story falling apart clapboard house.

Let’s get back to canning. I don’t have time for terribly long stories. 

Bitches, I am the RuPaul Andre Charles of canning. I’ve got canning game. Over the years, I have mastered the art. Yes, you heard me correct. It’s an art: Squatty Stainless steel jar lids, lids that stack in gorgeous, shiny rows in Papa’s garage pantry. Tall, long Masson jars, the glass of stars, full of peaches, their skin’s sloughing off. Don’t you just love the word slough? I eat the juicy peaches, skin first. I’ve preserved Kidney beans and canned eggplant, the kind that resembles the Emoji penis. I’ve canned olives, as dark as jackal eyes, red pimento’s for pupils. Green-fingered asparagus, some as thick as longshoremen’s thumbs, the rest, as long as your middle finger, I’ve stored them all. 

I figure all the canned goods in Papa’s green cupboard should last at least five freaking years. Think about it, not having to shop for food, all the plague masks, all the germs, the disguising people?  

I Quit my Job

I worked for the State of California in IT. My employer was the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. It was a nice fit for the longest time, the past twenty years. But, with all the write-ups, suspensions, and disciplinary action, I told the governor of the golden state of California to shove his state job up his Department of Controller’s ass. I’d had it. 

The talking behind my back and taunting had gone on for months. I was accused of sexual harassment, gender insensitivity, and for keeping less than standard hygienic practices. 

It was never written up formally, by my immediate supervisor had also accused me of excessive flatulence. He’d said, “I’ll save you all the embarrassment by not having it on the record.” 

They assumed father had simply disappeared in the woods. He’d been hiking a lot after Mamma’s disappearance. Well, he’d disappeared too. It was in early February. Ah, em, it had been snowing a lot. The Apaun forests were deep and dark, all that bullshit. 

Think of me as the red stapler man in the hit movie Office Space. I’d been placed in a corner, next to a dingy wall, at the end of a long row of cubicles. I’d been made fun of for the longest time. There had been food on my shirt that I’d made sure to wash at least once a month, the broken clip on my suspenders, my olive oiled hair, a litany of complaints. 

They’d said, “He’s a pig, eats most of his food out of jars, he farts like a bull in a software China shop. He scrambles and breaks every damned software application and Microsoft Excel spreadsheet account that he touches. His math is sloppy. He doesn’t add up.”

“Fuck you,” I shouted when Kevin won the yearly IT award. I wouldn’t have been so bad, but I used the third floors intercom. 

This girl named Nancy had turned me in for wearing real pig’s ears for Halloween. I thought It was appropriate. I used elastic and Velcro and had dried them out. “Fuck you,” I’d shouted when they’d told me who it was that complained. “Fuck all of you, Nancy,” I’d said. “You bitches are going to end up in a Masson’s canning jar.” I was fired the very next day. They walked me clear down the block to the bus stop. 

Ok, I get this feeling that you are making fun of me too. This is so personal, and I have been sharing so much of myself. I know you think I’m crazy, reader. You can’t fool me. Don’t flatter yourself, smarty-pants. You think I killed my mother and father and jarred them. No, and No, and hell no!

I’m in Papa’s garage. He won’t mind. I’m using his workbench vice. Grande Nonno had a workbench, too, over there in Italy. He’d used it to sharpen all his slaughtering tools and wheat scythe. Grande Nonno and I had always gotten along. I loved him. He’s the one that taught me why the sheep in the foothills of the Alps have two downhill legs shorter than the other, walking the hills and all, in one direction. 

Papa did everything big, including installing a commercial-sized workbench vice. His vice is industrial red and shiny as glass. I tighten it, tighter and tighter. Nothing ever escaped father. He held me down, two knees on my back, both hands in my long pissy hair, I’d wet the bed again. 

As I grew older, he’d do this, but for other reasons. 

I turn the handle. I have the vices dog fixed in place. I watch as the moving jaw moves in the direction of the stationary jaw. The main screws seem to elongate as the vice grips tighter, one of life’s paradoxes. I crank and crank until Papa’s double-barreled shotgun is fixed in place.

I saw and saw, using the hacksaw. 

As the storm shakes the rafters, I play Papa’s favorite CD using his cheap flea-market vintage player. How he loved him some Brahm, especially the classic-haunted lullabies, steeped in all the Mephistophelian memories they evoked. He loved the anxious melody, all the nervous piano keys, the white noise that kept my–his demons at bay. 

Piano Concerto Number Two was his favorite, with its assemblage of Stradivarius violins fluttering their hyaline wings off. How it reminds me of the times, I’d torn the wings off the butterfly’s whenever the pain ferreted itself into the light, sniffing for vengeance.

Most of the cold steel barrel falls to the floor. I sand and sand what’s left of the barrel until it’s smooth to the touch. It never heats up. It remains cold. 

I snap on the TV in the family room. It takes a while to find the channel with only white noise. Next to me, on the make-shift end table is a mason jar. It’s filled to the brim with pickled pig’s feet broth, mostly bitter vinegar. I grasp the jar in my sweaty palm. I swish the dog’s eyes in a clockwise direction. I place the vacuum-packed jar back on the card table next to the couch. 

The age-darkened sheep’s eyes spin and whirl in a circular motion of sight, no longer tethered to their brains by any pesky optic nerves or even semblance of reality. 

I pick up the jar again. I stare back and spin the wolf’s eyes in a counter-clockwise direction. I smile. I place the cyclone of deception and conspiracy back on the table.

Now I can use my index finger on the trigger. The shotgun barrel is so much shorter now. Using my toes was unrealistic since I’ve gained so much weight after being terminated. Terminated, what a harsh word, isn’t it? Because of all the nutritious canned protein, I’ve become a little cherub. There’s no way my chubby two toes were going to blast me over the moon. 

Dear reader, if you’ve gotten this far, I’m truly sorry. You will have to sit on the couch now, directly across from me, and watch.

You’ll have company. They are watching me too. The feral eyes are strobe lights, a horrific merry-go-round of sight, the son’s-a-bitch, around and around they go. The room fades to black, the TV splatters.

You know most of the rooms in the house by now. After you puke your guts out, you run toward the leaky shower in the master bath. The blistering hot water can’t rub your bloody skin off fast enough, “Fuck the crime scene,” you shout at the top of your lungs, into the ceiling. You contemplate how your pretty world has just shit its pants.

You exit the shower. The room has turned into a psyche ward spa. Everything is a vapor. You splash ice water on your face over the sink in front of the massive mirror. You rub and rub at the steam on the glass.  

Directly behind you, in the mirror, is your new reality. You can see it clearly now. It stands bleeding, broad-shouldered. Somehow the brawny shoulders are holding up a broken marble bowl of cherries. The bloody cherries are globing over the rim of the bowl. 

After you’ve determined the broken bowl is what’s left of my skull, I make you feel the icy barrel against your flesh, directly behind your pounding heart. 

Now, Son’s-a-bitch, the lights really do go out. 

The End


Dan’s most recent fiction has been published in the 45th Parallel, Allegory, honorable mention, Aphelion, BlazeVOX, Across the Margins, Bull, Cleaver, Close to the Bone, Coffin Bell, Dark City Books/Magazine, Door=Jar, Dream Noir, Entropy, Flash Bang Mystery, Gravel, Literary Heist, Mystery Tribune, O:JA&L/Open: Journal of Arts & Letters, New Flash Fiction Review, Overstock, Spelk, Variant, Visitant, Your Impossible Voice, The 5-2. Dan has also been nominated by Coffin Bell for the Best of the Net Anthology, 2021, and best micro-fiction by Tiny Molecules.

You can read more of Dan’s work at https://www.dan-a-cardoza-literature.com,

Twitter: @Cardozabig 

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Gypsy Mob : Episode One / The Pleasure Tent

The Ferris wheel whirled as the midway lights flickered, lit by the secondary generator also powering the staticky sound system piping carnival music through the meager lane of tents pitched along a lane that may have constituted a midway. A few dogs begged at the hands of the well-dressed patrons lined up at the booths, but for the most part, the only scavengers were the Gypsy carnies. 

“Step righ’ up, hit the tits off da bull wid a dart, and win a stuffed monkey!”

“Ladies and gents, if’n youse can fill this balloon wid a water gun, you get a ticket for our private show featuring the stunning Ms. Gingerette!”

“Guess da number o’ clams inside th’ bucket o’ sand and you wins a million dolla! Okay, not a million, but ONE HUND’RD DOLLARS! Ladies and gents, how ‘bout dat! For th’ price of a pounda clams…”

Bianca’s eyes shined as the Ferris wheel’s cars swooped past her, the lights of the cars reflected in her eyes. “Matty, this is so much fun! I haven’t been to a carnival in… ever!”

“Don’t get carried away, Bi,” Matteo said, his hand tightening on hers involuntarily as a carny whirled by in a fiery cartwheel, somehow juggling the Earth and two flaming torches. “This isn’t a carnival, just a campground of Gypsies with a few rusty rides.” As he spoke, the Ferris wheel whirled behind him, neglected joints letting out a squeak with every car. 

“Spoilsport,” Bianca shot back, dropping his hand and flouncing ahead. Matteo cursed and followed her, shouldering his way through the people crowding the midway. He was amazed at the number of people in the Gypsy encampment. Didn’t these people realize that Gypsies were scum and would only bring them heartache? Grinding his teeth, he followed Bianca’s short-skirted ass as it weaved through the crowd. 

“Ooh, fortunes!” Bianca squealed, coming to a halt at a black-bordered booth studded with blue stars. A banner proclaimed “Your fortune for only $5.00.” Beneath it, a scrawny dark-skinned man with greasy hair and a scraggly mustache grinned, holding out his hand. Matteo groaned, coming to a stop behind her and catching her arm, bringing her to a stop. 

“Bi, maybe we should go find somewhere else to spend our money,” Matteo said, neglecting to mention that the last time she laid down any money for their extracurricular activities was the last time they had bought coke(months ago) and hoping that she would move on rather than costing him another ten dollars for unmitigated Gypsy bullshit. 

“Maybe you want to go on and spend your own money,” Bianca said, her voice clearly inviting him to go fuck himself. 

Matteo sighed, glancing around them for a diversion. His eyes fell upon a tent much larger than the others, a banner over its entrance reading “Pleasure Tent.”  His eyes widened as, with a yank, Bianca pulled her arm free from his gripping hand. With a vindictive look at Matteo, Bianca dropped a five-dollar bill and a single into the bowl before the booth. 

“Look, Bi, if you want your fortune so bad, go and get it,” Matteo said, thrusting his hands into his pockets. “I’ll wait here.”

Bianca rolled her eyes before turning her million-dollar smile towards the carny. The greasy man smiled, vanishing her bills as though he had a conduit to another world. Turning to the side, he barked a word. Behind him, a wall of curtains they had not noticed parted and an old woman appeared, shrouded in ragged robes. Frizzy white hair surrounded her face as she beckoned Bianca forward. With a last vicious look at Matteo, Bianca disappeared behind the curtain. 

Matteo watched Bianca disappear into the fortune tent and rolled his eyes. It would be a long drive back to the Don’s mansion with her in that mood. With a sigh, he set his sights on the Pleasure Tent, the entrance attended by a Gypsy girl behind a wooden booth. She wore a long swishy skirt with the barest of tops covering her ample breasts. The fabric was translucent, making it abundantly clear that she wore nothing beneath it. Matteo felt himself stiffening as he walked towards her. The girl noticed him and smiled slyly as he approached. 

“Bitta pleasure?” she asked as he halted in front of her. 

“How much?” Matteo asked, glancing around and seeing no one to notice him patronizing the tent. 

“$100, you choose girl.”

Matteo put on his boyish charming face. “How about you?”

The girl laughed, the barest hint of disdain in it. “I not work inside. $100 and you make choice here.”

Fumbling, Matteo pulled his wallet from his pocket and extracted a bill. The girl made it disappear with the alacrity of the fortune teller before pulling a battered three-ring binder from beneath the booth. Opening it to the first page, she tapped the glossy color photograph of a pretty brunette. “She new. Just start tonight.”

“Do you have any blondes?” Matteo asked, glancing around again. 

“Accourse,” the girl said, selecting a bookmark and opening the binder to the section marked BLONDE. “Nonna them are…fresh as new girl.”

Matteo paged through the section, evaluating each prospect until one caught his eye. She had long blonde hair, down past her shoulders, full pouting lips and a haughty expression that made his groin twinge. He pointed. “How is she?”

“Well, I donno mysel’,” the girl said with a laugh. “But no complains. She very popular.”

Popular. Matteo knew what that meant. “Which is the newest blonde you have?” 

Leafing back several pages, the Gypsy pointed one out. “This one our newest blonde.”

Matteo gazed at the girl. Her face was lovely enough but the expression on it was vacant, the eyes a thousand miles away. “Is she… popular?” 

“Not as much, but you no sorry,” she said with a wink. 

Matteo moistened his lips. “I’ll take her,” he said, his voice husky. 

“You no sorry,” repeated the girl, coming around the booth and taking his arm. “Follow.” 

Matteo felt one full breast pressing against his arm and felt another twinge in his groin. “Are you sure you couldn’t work inside, just this once?”

The girl laughed as they entered the tent. “Sorry. But you be very pleased with Dora.”

As Matteo’s eyes adjusted to the gloom in the tent, he could see it was separated into sections by thick curtains. He could hear various liquid sounds, male groans and the slap of flesh on flesh. The scent of rut filled the air, swelling his member further. 

Leading Matteo down an aisle, the Gypsy girl stopped at one of the sections. Releasing his arm, she pulled the curtain back and gestured for him to enter. Peering past the curtain, Matteo saw the blonde girl reclining on a bed, nude, her eyes on him. With no expression, she gestured him forward. Glancing at the Gypsy girl, Matteo stepped forward, feeling the curtain fall into place behind him. 

Throughout their session, the girl’s blank face did not change, even when she took him in her mouth. Matteo was disconcerted but found that by taking her from behind, it rendered her expression immaterial. As he came, she let out a sigh, her only vocalization. 

Pulling out of her, Matteo spotted a roll of paper towels on a table beside the bed. Wiping himself, he buckled his pants, noting with unease that the girl had not moved, laying on her stomach with only her breath to show she still lived. 

“Well…thanks…” Matteo said, unsure of what to do or say. None of the other working women he had patronized had been so…lifeless. She continued saying nothing, so with a shrug, he pushed back the curtain and left the tent. 

The Gypsy girl was showing the book to another prospective client, her untethered breasts jiggling as she laughed at something the man had said. Her eyes met his, and she grinned. “Please come again, we have new girls very soon!”

“Right,” Matteo said uneasily. He escaped into the crowd, feeling dirty. Sniffing himself, he did not detect any smells that would arouse Bianca’s suspicions. 

Making his way back to the fortune tent, he was surprised not to see Bianca there. Walking up to the scrawny Gypsy at the entrance, he asked, “Is my girlfriend still in there?”

“No, sirrah. She gone.”

“Without me?” Matteo swore, not really surprised. 

“She very beautiful,” the man said, and grinned. “You lucky man.”

“Thanks,” Matteo mumbled, pulling his phone from his pocket as he walked away. Dialing Bianca’s number, a crease appeared on his forehead as it went directly to voice mail. Bianca NEVER had her phone off. 

“Hey Bi, where are you? Call me.”

Inside the fortune tent, the old woman ushered Bianca to a seat on one side of a crystal ball. Swirling her rags around her, she seated herself at the single stool opposite Bianca and steepled her fingers before her face. 

“Fortune a mysterious thing,” she said, her voice dry and thin. “It come with fame, herald it, be preserved within cookie, but nobody know where it comes from.” She tapped the crystal ball twice and its clear surface filled with gray clouds. “We may read it…here.”

Bianca leaned forward, entranced. 

With a wave of her hand, the woman plunged the room into darkness and leaned forward over the crystal ball, from which emanated a soft white glow. The shadows it cast over the woman’s face made her skull stand out, sinking her eyes into her head. For a moment, it looked as though across from her sat a grinning, skeletal ghost. Bianca let out a little squeak. The woman did not notice, leaning over the crystal ball as though she were reading a fascinating novel. 

“Ahhh young lady, you will go on to marry good, prosperous man. Your life will be everything you wished it could be…”

She trailed off. Bianca leaned forward, riveted. “Yes? What else?”

“I see you very beautiful,” the woman nearly shouted, and Bianca recoiled. “Yes, you be fine mother for your children and good wife to your husband.”

“Children?” Bianca said, her voice unnerved. “But I don’t want–”

“Ball has spoken!” the woman barked. “But I see you are very beautiful.” She nearly shouted this last phrase and turned her rotten smile upon Bianca. “Fates never lie.”

Bianca stood, her slightly shaky legs betraying her outward calm. “I will never breed,” she said, her voice haughty. “You have misread me, foolish woman.”

“Ah, p’rhaps,” the Gypsy said and leered. “If you wish, you go now.”

Without a word, Bianca turned toward the door to the tent through which she had entered. 

“Ah, miss, this way,” said the woman, gesturing to an arch in the cloth behind her Bianca had not noticed. “We must keep d’traffic flowing, yes?” She cackled. 

  Without saying anything more, Bianca pushed past the table and out the archway. She stood for a moment in the fresh air, savoring her relief from the heavily perfumed atmosphere of the fortune-teller’s tent. 

As she stood there, breathing, an enormous Gypsy man approached her. He grinned, showing teeth as rotten and black as the fortune-teller’s. 

“Miss, you very beautiful? Is what Madam told you?”

“Yes, and I don’t think it was worth what I paid her. I know I’m beautiful, I don’t need her to–”

Without warning, Bianca was hit from behind by a massive weight, sending her crashing to the dirt as a spray of red formed before her eyes. “Oh no, that’s blood,” she thought, as the ground rushed up to meet her and the world turned black. 

“You right,” said the huge Gypsy man. “She very beautiful.”

“She be perfect,” Madam Zara said, dropping the rock back inside the tent. “Now get her out of here.”

 

New HorrorAddicts.net Podcast Season 16 to Begin


Interview with Creator and Horror Hostess of HorrorAddicts.net, Emerian Rich. 

Interviewed by Kate Nox, Blog Editor

Nox: Emz, the new podcast season is about to begin. On April 24th we can all tune in and hear the show. I imagine this is an exciting time for you?

Emz: Exciting and busy. The staff and I are all working hard to collect information and create new content for the listeners.

Nox: And how many seasons have you been doing this?

Emz: This will be our 16th season.

Nox: Share with us the theme for this season and some of the reasons it was chosen

Emz: We wanted to really highlight POC voices this year, so we made a call to share with us horror in cultures from around the world. We’ve got some really great authors involved and we’ll be covering horror from all different countries. We made it a goal to populate our bookings with 50-75% POC voices and we ended up surpassing that with over 79%.

Nox: Can you let us in on any of the exciting items the season holds for our listeners?

Emz: We have three anthologies to highlight. SLAY from Mocha Memoirs Press, Haunts and Hellions coming out in May from HorrorAddicts.net Press, and ON TIME from Transmundane Press. We’ll have readings from the authors of those books. We’ll also be hosting a Wicked Women Writer’s All-Star competition for our 200th episode, so the listeners will get to hear from the winners of our contests over the years.

Nox: I’ve heard rumors you have new theme music this year?

Emz: Yes! Our favorite band, Valentine Wolfe, has returned to theme our show with their song, “I Felt a Funeral”

Nox: What will the audio drama be this year?

Emz: The Deadbringer, an audio dramatization of E.M. Markoff’s novel. It’s sure to be exciting!

Nox: Remind our listeners when they’ll be able to tune in for the first episode.

Emz: The first episode premieres April 24th and we’ll start with the black vampire theme. Authors from Mocha Memoirs’ SLAY will be reading their work for us. A full list of themes and guests can be found at: HorrorAddicts.net and you can also listen on all the podcasty things including iTunes, I❤Radio, Stitcher, and more. I can’t wait to talk to my addicts again!

Free Fiction Friday: Thirsty by Alan Moskowitz

THIRSTY

Written By Alan Moskowitz

           Alyssa loaded the revolver with one bullet.  She spun the cylinder, covering it with her hand making sure that neither she nor David could see in which of the six chambers the fatal bullet waited.  She put the gun down between them, the cylinder facing away from them.  She picked up the coin, held it out.  “Heads or tails?”

David’s mouth went dry, “Come on Alyssa, we don’t have to do this.  We can just keep sharing, the way we have been.”

           Alyssa shook her head.  “Rescue’s at least two weeks away, we both can’t last that long.  At least this way one of us will survive.  “Call it.”  She flipped the coin, David watched it spin up and then drop to the metal table with a clink.  She put her hand over it, “call it, honey.”  David remained silent.

Alyssa studied his once handsome face, remembering, the monumental exploration they’d launched themselves on, their falling in love, sharing everything equally. And now they’re stranded on this godforsaken waterless planet, and forced into a horrible decision.  “It’s only fair.” 

David swallowed hard, “Heads.”  Alyssa lifted her hand revealing “tails, you first.”

She slid the pistol over to David.  He took it in his hand, studied it for a moment.  “We’ll each drink less, a lot less, share fifty-fifty.” Alyssa sighed with resolution, “Then we’re both dead.”  A tear formed in David’s eye.  Alyssa watched it trickle down his emaciated cheek followed by a second drop.  He put the gun to his head.  His finger gripped the trigger, his hand shaking.  He looked into Alyssa’s calm and resolute eyes, and lowered the gun.  “I can’t.”

Alyssa understood. “I can.”  She took the gun from his shaking hand, checked the cylinder, turned it a few notches until the fatal bullet was next up.  She raised the gun to her head. 

“I love you!” David cried.

“I love you too,” Alyssa answered, and then shot David in the head.  She leaned over and wiped the telltale tear streaks from his face.  “There wasn’t enough for both of us David because you didn’t play fair.”  She sat back and studied his corpse, oddly feeling very little about killing her one time lover.  She considered putting on her suit and dragging him out into the red dust but didn’t have the strength.   She clutched the last bottle of water, opened it, took a small cautious sip and sat back to await the rescue craft.

__________________________________________________________________________________-

 

 

Alan Moskowitz is a retired screenwriter staying sane in Colorado during the pandemic writing genre fiction.  He can be reached at mosko13@aol.com.

 

 

Kbatz Kraft: Halloween Canvas Art

I’m not a painter, but spotting assorted size canvases at the Dollar Store inspired me to get my spooky art on with a little multi-dimensional Halloween décor! Often shadow boxes or keepsake frames are designed inward with elaborate motifs and objects that you can’t see unless you’re up close. These, however, are certainly noticeable, oh yes.

A $2 Goodwill Halloween craft paper block became the canvas backdrops – assorted patterns with damask skulls, spider webs, orange harlequins, and purple owls fittingly named “Dark Shadows.” Clearance Halloween paper placements also backing the 3D Skeleton Frames provided bats and candy corn designs for the larger canvases, and rummaging through my craft stash provided plastic lizards and scorpions, mini pumpkins, bone parts, weird looking potpourri pieces, and small holiday signs tossed into the potential pile as three dimensional art. Laying out my canvases, creepy papers, and morose objects helped match the right designs, bugs, and canvas sizes – eliminating patterns and items that clashed or didn’t fit while creating stand alones or series themes. Using papers and canvases both horizontally or vertically added variety, and now it was finally time to wrap each canvas like a present, folding the corners around the edges and hot gluing the the paper directly on the plain backs. The medium size canvases were a little larger than the square craft paper, so two pieces were seamed together – tape tested to carefully match the paper’s pattern before gluing down the line.

The small signs were only painted on their fronts, so they received some matching black or orange paint around the sides before being centered and glued on the large canvas fronts. The hangers on the back of these signs were removed, too – reused on the backs of the medium canvases now likewise redressed in proper batty fashion. When folding my wrapping too tight, the paper ripped on one, but Kbatz can roll with the punches and glue on more bat bling to fix anything! Not all the canvases nor patterns were perfectly square, however, and some uneven corners or abstract crooked have to be gotten over quickly. The square paper just came to the end of the smallest canvases, so their edges were painted black and the inside rim of the papers were lined with black marker to match the black and white backgrounds. Two red coats gave the bugs a unifying pop, and that foam mini pumpkin was cut in half and touched up around the edges before they were all mounted. Although the larger canvases can be hung themselves, the smaller ones are flat pieces probably meant for a tabletop easel display. A fitting orange yarn could anchor this small trio in a rustic, ladder style banner; but after taping the yarn on the backs, adjusting the placements, gluing the yarn in place, and securing it all with more masking tape, this attempt at hanging art looked totally terrible!

Between the weight of the canvases and the forward leaning objects, the series was no longer uniform as one leaned one way or titled the other. Recovering these canvases in fun prints and using zinger toppers is a family friendly project, but this looked like bad child art that mom has to stick on the refrigerator nonetheless. After getting some aggression out tearing off the yarn, necessity took over in the form of cardboard plucked right out of the recycling. I hadn’t yet used the last place mat pattern, a fun geometric Halloween design, and now it wrapped the cardboard as a new backer to a row of canvases. Though cute, it felt plain. Looking about my craft studio again for more trash to make treasure, I found the black frames removed from the new pictures for my Lenticular Gallery. They weren’t quite the right size for this wide series, so I cut the frames and re-squared them around the new artwork, again taping and gluing the surround in place. You can see the seams of this frame if you look closely enough, and I’m not sure if I totally like it. More creepy crawlies or traditional Halloween webs and creepy cloth drapes would hide these flaws, but all that seemed too busy. Fortunately, this canvas turned cardboard art does hang nicely with its orange yarn swag.

This Halloween Canvas Art was a lot of fun thanks to the craft inspirations and found affordability. For $7 I have five new Halloween displays – even if they didn’t all go as I expected. It also seems like a lot of materials and steps went into these, but having the craft basics to do this makes it wonderfully easy for a fall family night or an at home classroom project. Have a newspaper, special gift wrap, or small memento mori you want to save? Sentimental items or morose shockers make you an artist here!

Revisit more Kbatz Krafts including:

Gothic Gallery How-To

Goth Parasol Upgrade

DIY Flower Pens

How Not to Make a Spooky Spell Book

For more Project Photos, Follow Kbatz Krafts on Facebook! 

Kbatz Krafts: Love is Love Skeleton Wreath

I was going to wait and do this project as a morose February Valentine, but after my His and Hers Three Dimensional Skeleton Frames, I was too excited about this Love is Love Skeleton Wreath!

Despite dollar store skeletons in hand, part of the delay here was originally seeking an oval frame – two skeletons, a few roses, an ornate black surround, goth splendor, fin. However, new thrift frames went to the latest additions in the Lenticular Gallery, and the large wreath frame dismissed from the Mini Skeleton Wreath now took center stage. The floral stash provided red flowers, purple pop, and black leaves, but when I came upon my feathers drawer, I knew this was destined for rainbow flair! The black elements were ditched in favor of green leaves and green feathers stolen from a St. Patrick’s Day boa to go with the abundant orange, yellow, blue, and light purple feathers. Wrapping the frame in red tulle also found in the craft stash provided a solid base for hot gluing the red flowers and green leaves around the top half of the frame. Next came the skeleton couple, who were surprisingly cumbersome folks! The legs were removed, but an arm on either one was also displaced so their rib cages and skulls could be glued together. Without so much surface area on their little bones, it took a lot of hot glue pressed and held in place until the skeletons set. Rather than distinct hair or hat, this hugging, universal, eternal couple was glued as is to the bottom of the wreath with their arms bent and glued in place for more love and support.

The rainbow spread was arraigned and laid out before the purple flowers were glued along the bottom to finish the frame coverage and hide the skeletal ends. Working from their center across helped keep the assorted blooms semi-symmetrical before the orange, yellow, blue, green, and light purple feathers filled in the gaps. The red flowers already stood out with goth glam, leaving no need for red feathers, but the two different purplish shades became the requisite indigo and violet. Being one who prefers black or dark aesthetics, I didn’t have more colorful rainbow motifs, but that’s okay. Using what was in the craft stash required more outside the box thinking, and by eliminating black accents that would scream Halloween, this colorful goth décor can be hung up for fall, February, or Pride. At $3 for the frame and skeletons and maybe $7 worth counting flowers and feathers cost, this done in a day whimsical wreath is affordable, unique, sentimental, and fabulous!

Revisit more Kbatz Krafts including:

Re-Purposed Black Topiaries

Drab to Glam Lampshades

DIY Flower Pens

Upgrading Masquerade Masks

For more Project Photos, Follow Kbatz Krafts on Facebook! 

Kbatz Kraft: Halloween T-Shirt Pillows and Masks

Who doesn’t love a Halloween T-shirt? But what’s one to do once your frightful favorite gets too small, stained, stretched out, or ruined? Never fear Kbatz is here to help you turn discarded October shirts into fresh Fall pillows!

1) Be brave and snip snip! Once you’ve selected your T-shirt retirees, cut off the sleeves and necklines, leaving the front and back of the shirt as your new pillow fabric. If there are out of the way soiled spots or extra bottom length, consider cutting those, too. We want to save the fun Halloween designs, so the prints we’re preserving dictate the size or shapes of the pillows. Many will be straightforward squares, but others with wide across designs can be smaller, lumbar sized pillows or a left logo becomes a memorable mini. Go with what your facade allows. Do remember though, that the pillow fabric may seem big when ironed flat, but consider how much room there will be once it is a stuffed three dimensional object. Give yourself a few inches of room or seam allowance to keep your Halloween swag centered. You don’t want any fun phrasing running off the side!

2) Turn your fabric inside out and get sewing! Your two “good sides” should face each other, pinned or basted in place with a quick stitch. Go around your material perimeter and sew three sides closed. The biggest mistake you can make here is getting carried away and sewing the whole pillow closed, but that’s totally fixable! If you are going to use a pre-made pillow form to stuff your new Halloween cover, leave the bottom completely open. If you are using other stuffing means, then you can sew the bottom partway if you desire – just leave enough for your arm to do the fillings. Matching thread works best on your final stitching, but if you need help seeing your basting stitches and want to use a zany color, well that’s fine, too. Try using pins or chalk marks if you need guidelines while you stitch. When hand sewing, a basic running stitch will suffice, the smaller the stitch the better. There is, however, no formal or right way to do it! This is just a pillow. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s okay to make mistakes. That’s no cheat, either – this is basic sewing for you and the kids to practice and have a good time. When you’ve done your three sides, turn the pillow right side out, make sure your design isn’t off the edge, unsightly, or crooked. If you have to break in a seam ripper and do a side again, that’s no problem.

3) Know your T-shirt or tool needs. T-shirt materials are often stretchy knits, so if you are sewing on a machine, check your thread, tension, or stitch, for a zig zag setting may be better on some fabrics than a straight line. If you intend to use your Halloween pillow year round or expect it to earn a lot of bed or pet rough and tumble, reinforcing your seams with more than one machine pass provides strength compared to a quick hand stitch line for an October occasional. As your handling your fabric – especially if it is already something older, stretched, or delicate, be careful not to tug and pull against the machine and create any uneven bunching. Knowing my machine gets tension issues with thicker fabrics, I sewed a former Halloween sweatshirt turned pillow by hand, first with a basting stitch and then going back around with a nicer, straight line finish. If you have trouble hand sewing, use a thimble or consider your needle size or thread weight if your thread keeps breaking or you poke your fingers. Remember this is a great way to learn some sewing basics if you’re interested in advancing to more ambitious projects.

4) It’s stuffing time! How you stuff your pillow is entirely up to you – soft, firm, overstuffed, whatever your comfort needs. A tired throw pillow can be revitalized as new Halloween innards, store bought pillow forms come in a variety of sizes, and natural or organic alternatives are available, however Poly-Fil is probably the most fun. A seasonal pillow that isn’t for sleeping or bedding use can be stuffed firm with plastic bags, disused towels, or fabric scraps, especially if you are light on real Poly-Fil or want to spread it around in combination with other materials. Heck, even dryer lint! My Halloween pillows were for decoration, so an outer layer of Poly-Fil smoothed the shape but within the interior of the pillow were plastic bags and recycled denim insulation from food deliveries. Don’t want to admit you are cheap and calling it recycling (like me)? As a pillow flattens with use or as you purchase proper stuffing, one can always refill or change a pillow later. The more advanced seamstress might even add a zipper closure to the pillow bottom so it can be continually stuffed with more fabric cabbage. Who’s going to know what’s inside the pillow anyway?

5) Don’t toss the leftovers! Remember those cut collars and excised sleeves? Use ’em for that stuffing! The sleeves from the T-shirt pillows on our game room bean bag became Stuffed Pumpkins, and long sleeves can become arm warmers. That extra shirt bottom can become its own plain practice pillow or be folded over to make a mask. Two of my Halloween shirts had small vampish designs, so I made these masks instead of pillows. Initially, they were way too big for my face, but I went around the edges again and folded the sides to make a channel for the ear elastics. I think I was overcompensating in trying to preserve the Halloween statement by trying to shape the mask to the design, which turned out to be unnecessary. Maximize every inch of your materials when possible. Get into outside the box thinking habits and ask yourself, “What else could this be? How else can this be useful?” Use these scrap materials to practice more easy sewing projects!

Halloween pillows are one of the most popular October items today. Toss one in any room and your decorating is done! Even when they aren’t super elaborate, however, designer seasonal pillows are pretty expensive. If we don’t even spend $25 on a bed pillow used every day, why are we spending just as much on some kind of beaded burlap decoration? For the same price, you can buy the Poly-Fil for two or three homemade Halloween pillows – and you get to control the comfort, use, style, and sentiment. Preserve a bemusing T-shirt as a Halloween pillow and get the whole family involved in the sewing skills and stuffing fun.

Revisit more Kbatz Krafts including: 

Pumpkin Ottomans, Oh yes

Decorating Like Dark Shadows

Gothic Thrift Alterations

Victorian Bonnets and Capes

For more Step by Step Project Photos, Follow Kbatz Krafts on Facebook! 

Kbatz Kraft: DIY Halloween Repairs!

Is DIY Decoration and Halloween How-To really worth it compared to the expensive store-bought accessories? Does your project hold up compared to “the real thing”? Can you fix what’s broken in a weekend? Kristin Battestella aka Kbatz makes minor repairs on a DIY Cardboard Coffin alongside therapeutic painting techniques and positive Halloween philosophy.

Day Two of the Halloween DIY repairs continues for Kristin Battestella aka Kbatz with hot glue guns and some Frankenstein sewing to fix an Oversize Pumpkin Ottoman before the finishing touches on the DIY Cardboard Coffin and the reconstruction of the fallen Shakespeare Cardboard Tombstone. Not everybody can go and purchase everything new, new, new all the time – especially with recycled, unique projects like this!

Is masking tape good enough? In today’s buy, buy, buy mentality we often forget a lot of things need regular cost saving tune ups. Minor, expected maintenance on Halloween DIY Projects is realistic, affordable, and just as fun the second time as Kristin Battestella aka Kbatz waxes on morbid reading recommendations and faux stone painting tricks as the repaired Shakespeare Tombstone is finished.

Thank you for being part of Horror Addicts.net and enjoying our video, podcast, and media coverage! Show us YOUR Halloween Craft Projects on our HorrorAddicts.net Facebook Group!

 

For our Original Kbatz Kraft How-Tos or More Halloween DIY:

How to Make Stuffed Pumpkins Video

DIY Cardboard Coffin How-To

Yogurt Ghost Candlesticks

How to Make Cardboard Tombstones Video

Cardboard Tombstones  Photo Shoot

Pumpkin Ottomans, Oh Yes.

Follow Kbatz on Instagram or visit Kbatz Krafts on Facebook for more step by step photos! 

Free Fiction : On Darkwater by John C. Adams

On Darkwater 

The boys had been out on the lake for hours without success.

‘You need to hold me under longer if it’s going to work,’ Gerald snapped. ‘That last time I just got inky darkness and nothing more.’

The ten year old pinched his cousin. Brett scowled back and rubbed his arm.

Gerald took a deep breath and nodded that he was ready, but something indefinable held back the usually fearless Brett.

‘Don’t blame me when yer half drowned.’

‘There’s something down there. Help me see it!’

Brett ducked Gerald’s head under and held him firmly when he struggled. The seconds ticked to a minute and beyond.

Near death. Oxygen deprivation. Terrifying visions. But Gerald was determined.

As Gerald stiffed, Brett believed for the first time that this could actually work. That it might be more than his cousin’s fancy and fledgling interest in medicine taking shape down there.

Finally, Brett gripped Gerald’s shoulders and dragged him back out of the water, flinging him onto his back. After a few terrible moments of pale paralysis, he spluttered back to life.

‘Well?’

Gerald’s smile unnerved Brett. What had he seen down there?

The silence coiled around them, its poison dripping into Brett’s veins, until he doubted his ability to tell his cousin’s truth from fiction.

Brett shivered. Gerald seemed suddenly very self-contained and insular. Perhaps, if there was something down there, Brett didn’t want to know after all.

‘That’s enough for today,’ he said.

END

________________________________________________________________________________________________

John C Adams is a nonbinary author and critic of horror and fantasy fiction, reviewing for Horror Tree, British Fantasy Society and Schlock! Webzine. They’ve had short fiction, reviews and articles published in many anthologies from independent presses, on the Horror Addicts blogsite and in various magazines including the Horror Zine, Sirens Call Magazine, Lovecraftiana Magazine, Devolution Z Magazine and Blood Moon Rising Magazine.

They have a Postgraduate Certificate in Creative Writing from Newcastle University, and were longlisted for the Aeon Award twice. John’s latest horror novel ‘Blackacre Rising’ is available to preorder now on Amazon and Smashwords.

 

 

https://www.amazon.com/Blackacre-Rising-Ivy-Spires-Book-ebook/dp/B087Z4499D/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=blackacre+rising

Need a break from the New Normal? Offerings from A. Craig Newman

From the Author:

I am declaring August 3 to August 10 to be a week-long “Horrific Break From Reality”.

From August 3 to August 7, two of my books will be available for free download from Amazon.com.

Wages of Sin” – The story of two women punished for the crime of loving each other. One is forced to grow extra limbs she can’t control. She was the lucky one.

Burn – A man’s pain sets the world around him on fire.  Taking the wrong drug makes everything freeze to ice.  The pain never goes away.  After committing murder, his pain only grows stronger.

Also available on Amazon.com, “Modern Myths and Fairy Tales” will be on sale for $0.99 from August 3 until August 10, before returning to its normal price of $2.99.

On August 8 at 7 PM, I will be hosting Serial Killer Trivia: Fact and Fiction. There will be 3 fun yet creepy rounds of questions and answers with the highest scoring player of the night winning a $25 Amazon Gift Card. Have a drink, enjoy a little dark humor, investigate some of the lurking monsters who look like your next-door neighbor. Visit Yaymaker.com to purchase tickets for $10

The following excerpt is from my story “Communion Day”.  I hope you enjoy my story.

The doors at the rear of the sanctuary opened. Two large men entered with Monty between them, ankles shackled together, and wrists bound to his waist.  The larger men walked with a slow but steady gait, dragging him between them. 

“What’s going on?” he screamed. “What the hell is wrong with you people?” 

“There is no hope for us without sacrifice,” the pastor said and closed his book. 

“A sacrifice of blood. A sacrifice of flesh,” the congregation responded, finishing the Recounting. 

“What?” Monty screamed.  “Let me go! Let me go!”  He saw Celeste seated in her pew as he passed by.  “Celeste? Celeste! Help me!” The trio stopped at the front of the sanctuary before the pulpit and the great statue.  “Celeste!” Monty called over his shoulder. “Celeste!” 

“Celeste,” the pastor said, “your husband calls to you.” 

“Yes, pastor,” Celeste said before struggling to her feet. She waddled over to Monty and his guards. “Yes, honey?” she asked when she stood before him, her back to the statue. 

“What-what-what the hell is going on? What is this place? Who are these people?” 

“It’s Communion Day,” she said in the calm, even tone of a teacher.  “This is my church and this is my family.” 

“Church?” he repeated. “Like God and stuff, right?” 

“No,” Celeste said. “The Father and The Son,” she said, gesturing to the icons behind her. 

Monty’s face clouded with confusion. “What are you talking about? That’s not God! And that’s not Jesus! Why is he upside down?” 

“That’s The Son. And that was how he was sacrificed.” 

Monty shivered as if he were cold. He looked about quickly. “Honey-honey, what’s going on? Get me out of here. We’ve got to get out of here.” 

“It’s Communion Day,” she said, placing a hand on his cheek.  She kissed him. “We must all make sacrifices,” she said after their lips parted. “You are mine.” 

Ushers came to the front and moved the pulpit out of the way.  A pneumatic lift whirled to life and the great statue of Father started to rise.  Beneath it was a grate and a basin. The grate slid out towards Monty.  His guards carefully lifted his struggling figure and laid him on the grate, attaching his binds to it.  The grate slid back under the statue.  While the bulk of his body was under the statue, his head stuck out to one side. 

“Celeste! Celeste!” he screamed repeatedly. 

She moved to be closer to him, placing a hand on his cheek and kissing him again.  The pneumatic lift whirled to life again and the statue lowered.  Celeste kept her lips to his as the statue made contact and began to press on his body.  His screams into her mouth could be heard in the first rows as the statue continued its slow descent.  His screams turned to choking noises.  When she broke her kiss with Monty, he atomized blood, spraying it over his face and hers.  Monty watched Celeste wipe some of his blood from her face and lick her fingers clean before his pupils dilated and he stopped moving. 

The ushers unlocked and removed a panel at the front of the statue.  The congregation could see the filling basin.  An usher opened a spout and let the blood flow into a goblet.  Pastor Johnson held the cup and ushers stood on either side of him holding loaves of bread.  Approaching in lines, each member of the congregation tore a piece of bread from a loaf and dipped in the goblet of blood held by the pastor. 

“There is no hope without sacrifice,” the minister said to each member. “May your harvest be plentiful.”  They then ate the bread, crossed themselves, and returned to their seats for quiet meditation.

The complete text for “Communion Day” and a selection of my work can be found at www.acraignewman.com.

Free Fiction : Man Down by Katy Lohman

I’d been hearing weird noises again. Not just Saunders’ medical equipment, which hissed and fizzled and beeped like crazy. No matter how many times the nurses told me I was hearing things, I knew better. Just like I knew Saunders’ twitching movements were signs of a struggle to wake up. He’d been in a quiet coma for over a year. Now, this. Something bad was happening. If only my medications didn’t mess with my mind, keep me swimming under a thick layer of haze, I could help. I was not delusional, or senile, or any of the other things they called me cause I was 93. I suppose I was a bad patient, in that I dared to quest…

Wait. What was that?

Gro-o-onk.

I shuddered, pulling my blankets up to my face like I was ten again and the Boogeyman was in my closet. Damnit, MacLeary, grow a pair.

I peered carefully up at the ceiling. And about had a heart attack.

There was something on that ceiling. No lie. Something like a giant stick-bug with a shield-shaped face was looking down at Saunders, one leg reaching down to stroke his face tenderly. Ah, god! God! Was…was it smiling? Things like that should never smile.

It made another sound: Gr-a-a-a-akk, and began glowing red at several areas. Its chest opened up, revealing spiked ribs and emptiness. Now I was three, and wet the bed. I got up, bones creaking, glad I was off the IV (who knew I’d be so grateful for a blown vein?), and snuck to the door. Way it was focused on Saunders, I figured I had the time to flee.

But, like any curious chump, I had to look back and see.

A blue figure, rising from Saunders’ body. A skeleton? He was still-bodied, but that blue skeleton was weeping, screaming what looked like, “No, no! Please help, MacLeary, I don’t want to die. Not and go there!”

Oh, god, it was his soul the monstrosity was stealing.

I flashed back to the portal in the Black Forest. We’d seen terrible beings, beings too hideous for words, straining to get through, fighting as the war ripped through ancient wards. We’d seen a world where pain was everywhere, dealt by more of those terrible beings. Rory was pulled in before the The Man in Purple came, and what happened to him… Even the trees had screamed on that day. We’d all been forced to make the vow; to say the binding words; to make the sacrifice.

And now, this. Two old men, the only ones left, and something had finally broken through when we were too feeble to fight.

No. No. No one leaves a man behind, especially a man down, in war.  That’s what I learned in that dark, bloodied forest. Saunders was my responsibility, as I had been his so long ago. Looking where my pinky finger should have been, I wheeled around, shouted the Words, and darted forward, hoping to yank his spirit back into his body.

That’s when the monster whipped its head to peer at me. Impossibly, a hand formed at the end of one of its limbs, and it lifted a scolding finger. A long, hose-shaped tongue began emerging from its mouth.

I don’t know the feeling that shot through me; sick, shivery, cold. I just know it made me go closer to the thing, reach out to touch its hand. Had I spoken the Words wrong?

No. Not time to ask questions. Diverting my hand, I grabbed its tongue and pulled. My back spasmed, my arms cramped, but I wasn’t going to let go before it did. Even if it took eternity.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Katy Lohman is a quirky, rather queer fantasy/horror writer. She writes about fae, dangerous angels, amused gods, misunderstood demons and Things That Must Not Be Named. When not writing, she can be found researching various topics, reading, asking what if, taking online classes about literature, history and philosophy, rolling dice, building decks and exploring rural Ohio (her new homeland). Right now, she’s obsessed with archangels and Sumerian gods. She has short stories published in Ugly Babies 3, 47-16: Short Fiction and Poetry Inspired by David Bowie (Volume II), and Scary Snippets: Christmas Edition.

Kbatz Kraft: Goth Parasol Upgrade

Last year I picked up an old cane umbrella at the Salvation Army Thrift Store for half the $1 sticker price. Yes, fifty cents! Though functioning, this decades-old umbrella feels delicate. Areas on the black canvas are faded and there are a few pinprick holes in the fabric. However, with the right details, this for pennies find can become the perfect goth parasol!

While the honey-colored wood handle and point are superior to modern plastic, the color doesn’t match any of my summer straw hats and bags. Fortunately, a day’s work with 80 grit sandpaper, a generous coat of Jacobean stain, and a semi-gloss topcoat create a fresh, dark finish. Rather than a recognizable bamboo or cherry, this wood smelled sweet when sanded – perhaps a good old hickory. For walking, this all-black exterior cane is sophisticated, but I left the interior stem its original warm wood color. When opened, the vintage shaft advertises old fashioned craftsmanship compared to cold contemporary metal, and inside the canopy where the notch locks there’s a piece of tape with the previous owner’s name. Instead of destroying such unexpected history, I stuck the price tag next to it, embracing a fifty-cent, fifty-year conversation piece with a story to tell. Thanks, Joseph!

After the rough stuff comes the expected parasol lace. Gathered straight lace from that three dollar cumbersome clearance roll last seen on my Victorian Bonnet became a delicious flounce sewn around the end point easily enough, but this was not going to become multiple tiers of bridal shower ruffles or baby bows and cutesy swag. More time-consuming lace both hand-gathered and machine sewed on a black ribbon was glued down to cover the faded canvas edge – just enough romanticism without being twee or too heavy. Although I couldn’t do much about the overall faded fabric, those pinprick holes could be disguised with sequin ribbon from my stash. Trails of sequins were glued over the imperfections, which when open, reflect some sunshine for a final ooh la la. Did I forget to mention this has a cute little button closure instead of lame modern Velcro? Oh yes!

With on hand craft supplies, $4 stain, and sandpaper found in the garage, for under $12 I have a priceless looking parasol with history and craftsmanship that can’t be found in those tiny yet expensive and not made to last Halloween knockoffs. Certainly, there are much more involved ways to do a complete parasol retrofit, but with the right affordable materials and glam vision, anyone can ritz up an umbrella for a sunny day in dark times. The most difficult thing here was waiting on fair weather to work outdoors. I’m too superstitious!

Revisit more Kbatz Krafts or Frightening Flix including:

Gothic Thrift Alterations

Upgrading Masquerade Masks

Gothic Romance Video Review

For more detailed Project Photos, Follow Kbatz Krafts on Facebook! 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kbatzkrafts/

Kbatz Kraft: Gothic Dark Shadows Sconces

Anyone else love those giant candelabras in the Collinwood foyer on Dark Shadows? Over the years I’ve collected some fine iron stands and hefty glam candlesticks, but such tall electric faux mood is obviously tough to find. This past holiday season, however, inspiration in creating my own imitation struck thanks to wrapping paper rolls and Christmas tree ornaments. Yes!

Upon finishing the wrapping paper, I swished the empty cardboard roll like a lightsaber as you do, but could these large tubes become a supersized Halloween Candle Cluster? Tea light toppers seemed too small, but eureka the Dollar Store came through once again with oversized light bulb shaped ornaments! Of course, they’re supposed to hang upside down, however sitting upright on top the cardboard rolls they’re perfect for that mid-century mood. A few hours and mixed coats of orange, red, and gold paint later, that bold flame faux was in full Dark Shadows effect. The location in mind for these candle imitations, unfortunately, is a small spot with little floor room for any ornate base – perhaps a re-purposed tall lamp or plant stand. On what then could I set my faux candle rolls? I spent the winter browsing ugly brass and plastic sconce shelves in the thrift store yet none were the right size, shape, or material for this old fashioned Dark Shadows look. Sconces would keep the floor free, but perusing home improvement stores didn’t yield any kind of affordable corbel or ye olde wooden plaque, either. Then, #stayathome forced my search online, and after a late night scouring on Amazon, I finally found a set of reasonably sized sconce shelves with an ornate scroll motif in the spirit of those big old candelabras. My black heart could see passed their white finish thanks to some handy burnt umber paint! The interior scrolls were painted black for dark definition, and after two umber coats, a yellow ochre dry brush added a bronzed patina.

Initially, the cardboard rolls were cut into four twelve-inch and two fourteen-inch candle pillars. Glue drips around the top created that faux melting wax, and the painted bulbs were glued on top. The bulb height, however, made the candles too tall for the shelves, so they were cut down to two ten-inch and one twelve-inch pillar per sconce. After a white base coat, more yellow ochre mixed with a dash of brown added dimension to the glue drips before mixing the white with the yellow ochre for a creamy, antique finish. The completed candles with bulbs were glued to the sconce, though the candle base felt bare compared to the Dark Shadows lamps with metal foliage accents. A $5 roll of metal craft trim from Amazon worked splendidly once painted with black and ochre for an aged look and glued in place (and I used the remaining piece to make an impromptu tiara, as you do in a pandemic amirite?) Although I spent more than usual for the sconce shelves at $20 for a set of four, the “only a few left” and delayed shipping fears are what really kick-started this three-day project into action. With $2 for wrapping paper, $6 for the bulbs, and $5 for paint and glue sticks already in stash, $38 total is an affordable, fun homage compared to a much more complex electrical redesign or antique purchase.

These gothic mock sconces were a case of working with what I had, finding inexpensive items to use in new ways, and paying more for a completed vision. It’s difficult to hold out for the right pieces or even see creative value in these tough times, but ideas and inspirations can still become a reality! There is however, a certain irony to making fake Dark Shadows candles imitating a real electric lamp that was fake candles – “vampires pretending to be humans pretending to be vampires.”

Revisit more Kbatz Krafts and Frightening Flix including:

Dark Shadows Video Review

DIY Cardboard Coffin

Painting it Black

For more step by step Project Photos, Follow Kbatz Krafts on Facebook

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kbatzkrafts/

Kbatz Kraft: DIY Flower Pens

I love zany pens – especially goofy or oversize flower pens and buy a bunch at a time whenever I see them in the Dollar Store so I have a back up when one runs out of ink. Yes, the bane of these fun conversation pieces (that no one can nonchalantly steal from us overprotective pen lovers) is that eventually, the ink ceases to flow. Occasionally I’ll leave a cool one in the pen cup, but then you inevitably end up grasping for that one working pen among the pretty but useless accumulation. Bulk pen options online look to be only cutesy daisies or rose wedding favors that feel cheap – a bud topped on a pen wrapped in ribbon. Well then, I can do that my tacky self!

Our on hand ingredients are simple:
*back to school clearance stick pens
*assorted thrift store flowers
*dollar store floral tape.

1.) After cutting single stems from the floral bunches to the length of the pen without its cap, hold the stem and pen firmly together and start wrapping the tape at the bottom of the pen.

2.) Once it is tightly started, continue winding the tape around the pen and stem – the green tape sticks to itself and any rough spots can be smoothed.

3.) At the top of the pen – just beneath the flower – the tape edge can be folded to cover the pen top.

OPTIONAL: On a few flower pens, I hot glued extra leaves from the floral bunches beneath the flower to hide any troublesome gaps.

Mine are red flowers with just the green floral tape stem, but for more dramatic looks one can use a longer flower length, feathers for faux quills, or go totally goth garden with black flowers and a black wrapped ribbon finish. My bunch inside a reused dark candle jar looks misleadingly real, and my husband said, “So THAT’S where you’ve been hiding the pens!”

This craft feels deceptively simple and almost not even worth sharing. However, during these stay at home initiatives, it’s the perfect time to revitalize old artificial flowers as something both summer vase decorative and useful fresh for that new at-home office or classroom. The kids can ritz up their writing utensils with bemusing toppers with this spare change fun, and the best part is that when the pen runs out of ink, you can remove the flowers for another project and make more themed pens per season.

Halloween pen bouquets, oh yes!

Revisit more Kbatz Krafts including:

Repurposed Black Topiaries

Creepy Cloches

How to Make Stuffed Pumpkins Video

For more Project Photos, Follow Kbatz Krafts on Facebook! 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kbatzkrafts/

Facebook Party TODAY!: Angelus Rose by Loren Rhoads

HAPPENING TODAY!
“If Romeo had wings and Juliet a barbed tail, could they find happiness in the City of Angels?”

Join us for a fun hour of games, book chat, and prizes!
All online from the comfort of you own home.
Chat with author Loren Rhoads, live.
April 11th, 2pm PST

After their escape from the ashes of Lost Angels, the succubus Lorelei and the angel Azaziel want nothing more than to enjoy each other’s company. Unfortunately, Asmodeus, the Demon Prince of LA, has threatened to devour Lorelei’s new-grown soul if she doesn’t bring about Azaziel’s downfall. Meanwhile, Aza is keeping secrets of his own that threaten the tenuous peace between Heaven and Hell. 

Three archangels come to town to try to set things right, but friendships are fracturing. The demon in charge of fallen angels is sniffing around. And Los Angeles is about to catch fire between a devil and the deep blue sea.

Facebook Party: Angelus Rose by Loren Rhoads

“If Romeo had wings and Juliet a barbed tail, could they find happiness in the City of Angels?”

Join us for a fun hour of games, book chat, and prizes!
All online from the comfort of you own home.
Chat with author Loren Rhoads, live.
April 11th, 2pm PST

After their escape from the ashes of Lost Angels, the succubus Lorelei and the angel Azaziel want nothing more than to enjoy each other’s company. Unfortunately, Asmodeus, the Demon Prince of LA, has threatened to devour Lorelei’s new-grown soul if she doesn’t bring about Azaziel’s downfall. Meanwhile, Aza is keeping secrets of his own that threaten the tenuous peace between Heaven and Hell. 

Three archangels come to town to try to set things right, but friendships are fracturing. The demon in charge of fallen angels is sniffing around. And Los Angeles is about to catch fire between a devil and the deep blue sea.

Free Fiction Friday: Angelus Rose by Loren Rhoads and Brian Thomas

“If Romeo had wings and Juliet a barbed tail, could they find happiness in the City of Angels?”

Author Loren Rhoads gave us an exclusive excerpt of her new book, Angelus Rose.

After their escape from the ashes of Lost Angels, the succubus Lorelei and the angel Azaziel want nothing more than to enjoy each other’s company. Unfortunately, Asmodeus, the Demon Prince of LA, has threatened to devour Lorelei’s new-grown soul if she doesn’t bring about Azaziel’s downfall. Meanwhile, Aza is keeping secrets of his own that threaten the tenuous peace between Heaven and Hell. 

Three archangels come to town to try to set things right, but friendships are fracturing. The demon in charge of fallen angels is sniffing around. And Los Angeles is about to catch fire between a devil and the deep blue sea.


Azaziel fights the ash wraith. Excerpt from Angelus Rose by Loren Rhoads & Brian Thomas

Summoned by a sense of terrible wrongness, Aza dropped through a hole punctured through the columbarium’s roof. Animate powder fogged the heavy air. The room clattered as the metallic urns danced in their niches. Some urns had already smashed through their glass partitions, adding sharp fragments to the swirling filth.

A pair of bodies lay crumpled near a stained glass window. Sweat pasted a coating of ash to their skin. More ash obscured the colors of their clothing. These mortal warders were dead, lungs clogged with bone grit and ash. Noc, the Cambodian cook, lay where he fell, his shirt wrapped around his face in an impromptu mask.

The woman had been Dolores Gutierrez. She lay curled around a book-shaped urn that held the soul of Willy Goldenstern. Aza could feel the boy defying the evil which tried to pry him out and carry him away on a wind of damnation.

Other souls also barely held out. Despite their makeshift containers, each was battered by the growing whirlwind of fouled remains.

Aza wondered how the other angels could have overlooked this possibility. Even if the niches in the columbarium around him weren’t hallowed ground in and of themselves, they were surrounded by it, ideally presenting a safe haven for the loose souls. But no one seemed to have considered removing the urns spaced throughout the structure that had contained the unredeemed dead. Perhaps there simply hadn’t been time.

As the General of Hell drew closer, his influence called to the dust of once-damned flesh. The mausoleum hallway hissed with the sound of whispering voices as the damned entreated the children to join them.

A shape swept up to meet Aza, coalescing into a twisted starfish of soiled gray. Nebulous and solid by turns, the ash wraith struck, attempting to suffocate the angel as it had the mortals.

In the cemetery outside, Aza could have dispelled the wraith with a few powerful strokes of his wings. In the narrow confines of the columbarium’s hall, he had no room for that. Instead, Aza approached the creature, speaking a banishment to drive it back.

The wraith fled around the corner of the columbarium’s corridor, before melting into the wall of niches. It rattled among the urns, trying vainly to open them before its destruction.


Don’t miss out on a chance to chat with the author April 11th, 2pm PST on Facebook

Facebook Party: Angelus Rose by Loren Rhoads

“If Romeo had wings and Juliet a barbed tail, could they find happiness in the City of Angels?”

Join us for a fun hour of games, book chat, and prizes!
All online from the comfort of you own home.
Chat with author Loren Rhoads, live.
April 11th, 2pm PST

After their escape from the ashes of Lost Angels, the succubus Lorelei and the angel Azaziel want nothing more than to enjoy each other’s company. Unfortunately, Asmodeus, the Demon Prince of LA, has threatened to devour Lorelei’s new-grown soul if she doesn’t bring about Azaziel’s downfall. Meanwhile, Aza is keeping secrets of his own that threaten the tenuous peace between Heaven and Hell. 

Three archangels come to town to try to set things right, but friendships are fracturing. The demon in charge of fallen angels is sniffing around. And Los Angeles is about to catch fire between a devil and the deep blue sea.

Free Fiction Friday : Father’s Day by Corpsicus Hackenslash

“Father’s Day”

A doldrums day in June sat still. The sun shined hot and unrelenting, burning bright above as the day reached early afternoon. Cicadas droned metallic in the palmettos and I lay there, lost in the woods. I was on my back, staring at the great deep blue sky, in a clearing- a field surrounded by pines and oaks, and a million bugs in the trees.

Time has a funny way of passing after a thing like that. The minutes seem like eons but the days seem to be so short. It’s a permanent temporality.

As a child, there was no way I could have known the damage he had dealt to me. The memory of the whole thing just seemed to bury itself in the recesses of my mind like a hidden malignant tumor or an abscess festering away beneath the surface.

As I lay in the field, perhaps by some passing familiar shape in a cloud or maybe by a wicked streak of providence, it all came back to me. The serenity ripped away as the memory of it came crashing through the dam of repression, and the trauma of it all overwhelmed me, drowning me.

I was no longer in the field. I was back in the darkness of the basement, crying out for help with only deaf ears to hear me. I was choking, gagging, gasping for breath. I was back in the ropes that held me down as he tormented me. I was struggling futilely under the weight of his body. I was ten years old.

The hot coals of the memory burned into my open wounds, and the horror of it all was like a flock of vultures ravaging the carcass of my childhood, ripping sinuous carrion away and exposing the bones of trauma.

After all this time I was still stripped of my power, unable to shake the memory.

Out of the brush, a shuffling approached. And that was when I saw it. A baby doll with a crown of screws and a melted face limped toward me. It was my old friend, my outlet for all my suffering. It had suffered a thousand injuries and insults, but never left me behind.

It spoke to me.

“The time has come.” It said.

Baffled, I gazed up at him. “Time?”

“You got so big, I almost don’t recognize you. It’s time to put me away and leave me behind. You need to move on.” It said.

I knew what it meant. I understood what I needed to do.

My pain and terror rotted, heating up, twisting and contorting into an infected scab of burning rage. I knew that it was, in fact, time. Left alone with this revelation, I sat up in the grass. I was no longer lost, for the path had found me.

I was going to find him. I was going to kill him.

*************************************************************************************************************

Bio:

Transmission 0000003
I am Corpsicus Hackenslash STOP Put your fingers in it STOP A squirrel is not a cutting board STOP Become a fellow maniac STOP The Egyptian afterlife is a pyramid scheme STOP I will never, ever STOP
I have no web page, but I do have an Instagram account. It is @corpsicus_hackenslash. Sorry for any inconvenience that brings on.

HOW Con: New 2020 Workshops!

If you can’t take time out to be part of the Live Shout Box Events happening at the HorrorAddicts.net Online Writers Conference Feb 25-27 never fear! Our forum based conference has numerous workshop for your Publishing, Writing, and yes, Horror inspirations!

In addition to our Previous Articles and Video Panels from last year that attendees can still access, New Workshops for our 2020 Conference include:

Speculative Author Diane Arrelle Interview

Using the Imagination Game to Inspire Ideas by Emerian Rich

How to World and Character Build in Horror by Charles F. French

What to do When Real Life Interferes with Writing by Kristin Battestella

Back to Basics: Writing Prompts Like We’re 10 Video Exercise

10 Things to Remember when Planning a Writing Event

How to Plan Workshops and Oral Presentations

And MORE!

Remember to Sign up and Log in so you can experience all HOW has to offer! 

This Week! : HOW CON 2020 Coming February 25-27!

We’re BACK and once again The HOW Conference is open to Any Genre and General Writing Topics, not just Horror!

Authors, Editors, Agents, Publishers, Readers, and Writers are invited to be part of The HorrorAddicts.net Online Writers Conference February 25-27, 2020. Learn HOW to hone your literary craft thanks to interactive online forums, live chats, writing exercises, and more FREE opportunities to sharpen your skills wherever you are and whatever you write.

Workshop Submissions for HOW are Currently OPEN!

What kind of workshops are we looking for at HOW you ask?

~Interactive forum based workshops, worksheets, writing exercises or prompts in any genre or writing skill level
~Articles and essays with writing tips, experiences, or references, again in all genres or on technical tips, formatting, grammar, etc
~Editor, Agent, and Publisher essays, experiences, or feedback
~Articles and tips on marketing, networking, promotion, and social media for authors
~Genre-specific essays, tips, trends on world building, characters, genre perimeters, etc.

If you are an author, editor, agent, or publisher and would like to do a Q&A, chat, or live audio/visual event, let us know! Shoutbox Chats and Live Events are currently being scheduled for Tuesday, February 25 and Wednesday, February 26. Have an idea? Don’t hesitate to ask! If it is technologically possible, we want to do it at HOW!

Register now on our Free Forum at horroraddictswriters.freeforums.net for more information. Don’t worry, it’s free and Easy! Workshop submissions can be done directly through the forum system or by emailing your workshop proposal no later than February 7 to horroraddicts@gmail.com. Please use the subject heading ‘Horror Addicts Online Conference Query’ so we recognize your message.


To participate in HOW, you must register at our Online Writers Conference Forum. During the week of the conference, the Workshop boards will be open. Each board will contain the workshop threads, conveniently sorted by genre so our experts can present their tips, worksheets, brainstorming, and more. All you have to do interact – host your workshop, browse the forum, participate in one, two events or as many aspects as possible and get inspired with HOW!

Thank you for your participation and we look forward to seeing you at the Horror Addicts.net Online Writers Conference!

 

Revisit the Writing HOW-tos from Last Year’s Conference:

HOW Video Workshops

HOW Guest Authors

HOW Chat Transcripts

 

Reminder : HOW CON 2020 Coming February 25-27!

We’re BACK and once again The HOW Conference is open to Any Genre and General Writing Topics, not just Horror!

Authors, Editors, Agents, Publishers, Readers, and Writers are invited to be part of The HorrorAddicts.net Online Writers Conference February 25-27, 2020. Learn HOW to hone your literary craft thanks to interactive online forums, live chats, writing exercises, and more FREE opportunities to sharpen your skills wherever you are and whatever you write.

Workshop Submissions for HOW are Currently OPEN!

What kind of workshops are we looking for at HOW you ask?

~Interactive forum based workshops, worksheets, writing exercises or prompts in any genre or writing skill level
~Articles and essays with writing tips, experiences, or references, again in all genres or on technical tips, formatting, grammar, etc
~Editor, Agent, and Publisher essays, experiences, or feedback
~Articles and tips on marketing, networking, promotion, and social media for authors
~Genre-specific essays, tips, trends on world building, characters, genre perimeters, etc.

If you are an author, editor, agent, or publisher and would like to do a Q&A, chat, or live audio/visual event, let us know! Shoutbox Chats and Live Events are currently being scheduled for Tuesday, February 25 and Wednesday, February 26. Have an idea? Don’t hesitate to ask! If it is technologically possible, we want to do it at HOW!

Register now on our Free Forum at horroraddictswriters.freeforums.net for more information. Don’t worry, it’s free and Easy! Workshop submissions can be done directly through the forum system or by emailing your workshop proposal no later than February 7 to horroraddicts@gmail.com. Please use the subject heading ‘Horror Addicts Online Conference Query’ so we recognize your message.


To participate in HOW, you must register at our Online Writers Conference Forum. During the week of the conference, the Workshop boards will be open. Each board will contain the workshop threads, conveniently sorted by genre so our experts can present their tips, worksheets, brainstorming, and more. All you have to do interact – host your workshop, browse the forum, participate in one, two events or as many aspects as possible and get inspired with HOW!

Thank you for your participation and we look forward to seeing you at the Horror Addicts.net Online Writers Conference!

 

Revisit the Writing HOW-tos from Last Year’s Conference:

HOW Video Workshops

HOW Guest Authors

HOW Chat Transcripts

 

Reminder : HOW CON 2020 Coming February 25-27!

We’re BACK and once again The HOW Conference is open to Any Genre and General Writing Topics, not just Horror!

Authors, Editors, Agents, Publishers, Readers, and Writers are invited to be part of The HorrorAddicts.net Online Writers Conference February 25-27, 2020. Learn HOW to hone your literary craft thanks to interactive online forums, live chats, writing exercises, and more FREE opportunities to sharpen your skills wherever you are and whatever you write.

Workshop Submissions for HOW are Currently OPEN!

What kind of workshops are we looking for at HOW you ask?

~Interactive forum based workshops, worksheets, writing exercises or prompts in any genre or writing skill level
~Articles and essays with writing tips, experiences, or references, again in all genres or on technical tips, formatting, grammar, etc
~Editor, Agent, and Publisher essays, experiences, or feedback
~Articles and tips on marketing, networking, promotion, and social media for authors
~Genre-specific essays, tips, trends on world building, characters, genre perimeters, etc.

If you are an author, editor, agent, or publisher and would like to do a Q&A, chat, or live audio/visual event, let us know! Shoutbox Chats and Live Events are currently being scheduled for Tuesday, February 25 and Wednesday, February 26. Have an idea? Don’t hesitate to ask! If it is technologically possible, we want to do it at HOW!

Register now on our Free Forum at horroraddictswriters.freeforums.net for more information. Don’t worry, it’s free and Easy! Workshop submissions can be done directly through the forum system or by emailing your workshop proposal no later than February 7 to horroraddicts@gmail.com. Please use the subject heading ‘Horror Addicts Online Conference Query’ so we recognize your message.


To participate in HOW, you must register at our Online Writers Conference Forum. During the week of the conference, the Workshop boards will be open. Each board will contain the workshop threads, conveniently sorted by genre so our experts can present their tips, worksheets, brainstorming, and more. All you have to do interact – host your workshop, browse the forum, participate in one, two events or as many aspects as possible and get inspired with HOW!

Thank you for your participation and we look forward to seeing you at the Horror Addicts.net Online Writers Conference!

 

Revisit the Writing HOW-tos from Last Year’s Conference:

HOW Video Workshops

HOW Guest Authors

HOW Chat Transcripts

 

HOW CON 2020 Coming February 25-27!

We’re BACK and once again The HOW Conference is open to Any Genre and General Writing Topics, not just Horror!

Authors, Editors, Agents, Publishers, Readers, and Writers are invited to be part of The HorrorAddicts.net Online Writers Conference February 25-27, 2020. Learn HOW to hone your literary craft thanks to interactive online forums, live chats, writing exercises, and more FREE opportunities to sharpen your skills wherever you are and whatever you write.

Workshop Submissions for HOW are Currently OPEN!

What kind of workshops are we looking for at HOW you ask?

~Interactive forum based workshops, worksheets, writing exercises or prompts in any genre or writing skill level
~Articles and essays with writing tips, experiences, or references, again in all genres or on technical tips, formatting, grammar, etc
~Editor, Agent, and Publisher essays, experiences, or feedback
~Articles and tips on marketing, networking, promotion, and social media for authors
~Genre-specific essays, tips, trends on world building, characters, genre perimeters, etc.

If you are an author, editor, agent, or publisher and would like to do a Q&A, chat, or live audio/visual event, let us know! Shoutbox Chats and Live Events are currently being scheduled for Tuesday, February 25 and Wednesday, February 26. Have an idea? Don’t hesitate to ask! If it is technologically possible, we want to do it at HOW!

Register now on our Free Forum at horroraddictswriters.freeforums.net for more information. Don’t worry, it’s free and Easy! Workshop submissions can be done directly through the forum system or by emailing your workshop proposal no later than February 7 to horroraddicts@gmail.com. Please use the subject heading ‘Horror Addicts Online Conference Query’ so we recognize your message.


To participate in HOW, you must register at our Online Writers Conference Forum. During the week of the conference, the Workshop boards will be open. Each board will contain the workshop threads, conveniently sorted by genre so our experts can present their tips, worksheets, brainstorming, and more. All you have to do interact – host your workshop, browse the forum, participate in one, two events or as many aspects as possible and get inspired with HOW!

Thank you for your participation and we look forward to seeing you at the Horror Addicts.net Online Writers Conference!

 

Revisit the Writing HOW-tos from Last Year’s Conference:

HOW Video Workshops

HOW Guest Authors

HOW Chat Transcripts

 

Kid Fears Free Fiction Friday: Leaf Pile by Emerian Rich

Leaf Pile

by Emerian Rich

Jason said it was safe, so I went ahead and jumped. What harm could a pile of leaves do, right? He said he’d done it before. Loads of times.

I had on my big orange ski coat ‘cause the cold had come early and Mom hadn’t had a chance to get me a new jacket. With that ski coat on, I felt like a wrestler. One of those huge guys with big muscles. Nothin’ could hurt me. Maybe I was more like The Hulk. Yeah. The Hulk in rage mode. Indestructible. Not even Thanos could hurt me.

I zipped up and pulled the hood over my ears. The pile of leaves was a big, orange-brown-red cushion, waiting for me to plow into it and land on the other side. If only I had a mini-trampoline to jump in from higher like I did on the diving board to make a bigger splash.

I ran and jumped as high as I could. Just before I sunk in—expecting the crinkle and crunch of smashed leaves—a deep, dark hole opened up. Mid-air there was nothing I could do. I fell into the damp hole, leaves clinging to my legs and face, forcing me deeper into the mass of foliage.

Now, I’m a part of the pile. I can’t move. The leaves have me tied down in my big orange coat. My legs feel like they’ve been bound by vines, but I can’t move to look down and see. My vision is blurred orange as if I’m behind a stained glass window. It’s hard to breathe and I can’t speak. Leaves have covered my mouth with their thick, earthy stench.

People see my orange ski coat as they walk by, but they just dismiss it for leaves. Even Mom didn’t recognize it when she walked by, calling out my name in a panicked yell.

Soon it will be dark and they’ll give up the search. I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to survive, but I feel warm living fur behind me. I just wonder…will it save me? Or eat me?

It Came From the Vault: Traditions by Stephen Kozeniewski

vault

TRADITIONS

by Stephen Kozeniewski 

Granny clattered on the counter with a wooden spoon until the children stopped squabbling. When they finally turned to pay attention, she smiled, baring each and every bright white denture with joy.

“All right, little nuggets,” she said, “Now granny is going to show you what to do. Come up here.”

She lifted two-year-old Benji and planted him on the counter beside the sheer metal stockpot that was almost as tall as him.

“Now, Benji, this wax is very hot so don’t put your fingers in it and don’t splash.”

“Yes, grandma.”

“Now start to feed the coil in slowly and let me know when you run out of length.”

Giggling, Benji did as he was told.

“Granny, why do we wax the decorations?” little Suzie asked, her pinky hooked into the corner of her mouth.

“So that they last, my dear.”

“And why do we want them to last?”

Granny crouched down to Suzie’s level, even though it pained her ankles.

“Because it’s a tradition, my dear.”

Little Suzie’s eyes lit up with the wonder of excitement and recognition.

“A t’adition?”

Granny nodded.

“Like when we invite a homeless person in for Christmas?”

“That’s right.”

“All done!” Benji announced, clinging to the last link of this year’s holiday visitor’s small intestine.

Together, as they did every year, they draped the wax-dipped organ around their tree of horrors. The attic was starting to overflow with their collection of decorations.

“God bless us every one,” Benji said joyously.

******************

Kozeniewski Author PhotoStephen Kozeniewski (pronounced “causin’ ooze key”) lives with his wife and two cats in Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the modern zombie. During his time as a Field Artillery officer, he served for three years in Oklahoma and one in Iraq, where due to what he assumes was a clerical error, he was awarded the Bronze Star. He is also a classically trained linguist, which sounds much more impressive than saying his bachelor’s degree is in German. Find out more at: www.amazon.com/author/kozeniewski

Kid Fears Free Fiction Friday: Dark Angels by Emerian Rich

An early story by Emerian Rich. Published in DarkLives ‘Zine 1997.

Dark  Angels
by Emerian Rich

Among the high majestic redwoods, behind a cluster of small shacks, atop steep hill, is a log cabin church. It’s old, drafty, and doesn’t lock. This is the place where the fight of angels began. 

I was eight years old when I first heard the warnings of the crazy preacher. Early on Sunday morning in the middle of summer is not the best time to be in church. So many distractions caught me losing concentration while the old man spoke. The sun was bright, shining through the tiny cracks in the ceiling time had put there and making a strange design on the floor. There were no lights in the church and although the windows were not covered and the door was open, the redwoods shaded it, making the place strangely dim. Birds sang happily and there was a rustle in the bushes that had to be a deer or raccoon.

The black preacher’s voice was deep and commanded attention. He spoke of war and fire. His hands were huge as he mimicked the flight of an angel.

“Listen, children, and beware, for it’s a comin’ and you won’t want to be here when it does. The devil, he got angels, too. And they will take your soul if you let em!”  the preacher said.

The children were scared, their eyes wide with horror, gripping the benches till their knuckles turned white. The adults in the chapel looked around nervously, motioning for the head counselor to “do something.” They moved the children out of the church and told us to go to the playground.

The old preacher still spoke, even though his words were drowned out by the noise erupting from every small little body. He spoke louder, determined that every ear would hear his warnings.

I was being pushed by the children beside me to get up and go outside.

“We can go!  Get out of the way!” a nasty brown-haired kid with mud on his face said as he shoved me toward the door.

I stood, stumbling over the first three rows of wooden bleachers and falling onto the dirty floor. Kids ran past me, shouting and laughing.

“Let’s play!”

“Race you to the swings!”

“I’m first on the slide!” they screamed in a jumbled mess of voices.

I stood, brushing the dirt off my skinned knees and straighten my dress. I looked up slowly, not wanting to meet the eyes of the old preacher. I was the last one listening and he glared at me as he spoke. 

“Fire will explode, little one. Explode!” he screamed as the other adults dragged him away.

An adult pulled me away and out to the campground.

“Beware of the Dark Angels!” the preacher yelled as we were pulled away. 

***

At nap time, I lay in my lower bunk, thinking of how strange the whole day had been. I looked at the other kids who were asleep, faces smashed against their beds. Was I the only one that found some interest in the old man’s story? I wondered what the Dark Angels looked like and snuggled deeper into my sleeping bag. I imagined their massive black wings flapping violently. Why was I the only one listening to the old preacher? Why were the other kids trampling over me to get out and play? Weren’t they scared of the Dark Angels coming to get them?

***

At free time I decided not to go swimming, but to go in search of the old man. I knew where they had taken him. There was some kind of building up in the forest. A place I had only seen from afar when entering the camp in a broken-down stuffy church bus.

When I got to the log cabin church, it was deserted and only gave a few cracking noises from within as if settling back down from being trampled on by tons of kids that morning. I stared up at the steep hill that led to the unknown building. It was the hill that we told ghost stories about in our cabin at night. My body quivered but I kept on. I had to know the secret of the Dark Angels.

The trees above wrestled with the wind and dropped acorns all around me. I screamed, jumping back and tripping on a boulder. My head throbbed and every one of my limbs was skinned. I got up slowly, hoping my leg oozing blood wasn’t broken. I straightened my dress and brushed the leaves and dirt from my face and arms. 

“Kylie…” a voice called out of the woods. 

I turned, searching every tree and bush for the source.

“Kylie Ross, you should not be up here, my dear,” said the old black preacher as he stepped out from behind a huge Redwood.

I was speechless and all of a sudden scared of the man that I had been searching for.  

“Don’t be frightened, young one. I won’t hurt you.”

“How did you know my name?” I asked.

“God told me about you. You are a special child, see?”

“He did?”

The old preacher nodded. “Let’s get you fixed up.” He offered his hand and led me back into the log cabin church. Taking out a first aid kit, he helped me clean up my wounds. I had bandaids on both my knees and one elbow by the time we were done. The sun was fading and my tummy rumbled, but I wasn’t going to leave the preacher man until I found out about the Dark Angels.

A noise outside drew the old preacher’s attention. Scuffling and flapping came from beyond the open door.

“Kylie, you stay here for a spell,” the preacher said and ventured into the waning light. 

I waited for a while. Until the light was so dim I could barely see the outline of the door. 

“Preacher?” I called, but no answer came. My timid footsteps whispered across the floor and I peeked into the darkness.

There were adults outside but no preacher. I knew if I was found up there alone, there would be trouble, so I tried to sneak around the church and back down the camp before any of them caught me. The adults all wore long brown jackets and hats. I was almost in the clear when I tripped on a rock and turned my ankle. Dirt and rocks scattered down the hill and made one of the adults turn my direction. His face was pure white and his eyes fiery red.

“Get her!” he commanded, throwing off his coat to expose massive black wings. 

I screamed as they came after me. Their eyes pierced through me. Ten pairs of wings surrounded me and I knew I was never going to get out of their dark clutches.

A high-pitched tone came out of the darkness, making the Dark Angels clutch their ears and recoil into black-feathered balls. Up over their hunch bodies came the brightest light I’d ever seen.

“Kylie, you are not safe here,” a white-winged angel said, sweeping me up and carrying me to safety away from the dark monsters.

The angel was beautiful and her eyes were ice blue. Her wings encircled me and were as soft as my bed at home. She held me tightly as we soared through the air to a branch out high above. The Dark Angels below woke from their confusion and looked up into the trees.

“Hold on to the tree. Don’t let go. We’ll be back,” the white-winged angel said and jumped off the branch. A dozen angels like her, shining bright with light, swooped down, their white hair blowing behind them as they fell. 

Screams filled the air as the fight of the angels began. 

END

Kbatz Kraft: DIY Cardboard Coffin

I told myself, “Kbatz, no more cardboard tombstones!” and had actually been recycling several of the boxes that came my way. However, when one long, slender, perfectly coffin sized box happened upon my doorstep, I could not ignore it!

Granted, this was only the oblong base for a Cardboard Coffin that suddenly landed in my lap, and I needed to make the graduated, angular top to complete the silhouette. Cutting another box open to adjust around the top of my long box took some trial and error – centering as best possible, taping the flaps down to close the front, then reinforcing all the seams with more masking tape. After the front was loosely in place, I laid down my delicate shape and traced the top onto another piece of cardboard to be used as the backing piece. One could leave portions of the coffin open, but that can seem like parts were missing and this needed the structural support as well.

Although, one flap on my top box was indeed missing. I thought about cutting another piece of cardboard to wedge it closed, but the Bob Ross happy accidents continued once I decided to leave it open for some creepy hands to pop out. I have some Dollar Store skeleton hands intended for making coffins out of old pallets in yet another get to it someday project, but when looking for the skeleton hands I found monster fingers I had picked up at Goodwill for $1. Because these are singles rather than a jointed boney hand, I could spread them further apart to cover the opening as well as let them really stick away from the coffin for total scary effect!

Before I could break the monster out, however, I had to paint my cardboard coffin. Using the same technique as my DIY Tombstones, I graduated and varied different brown and black acrylic paints in marbled streaks with darker old sections and lighter, seemingly worn corners. After a few coats of blending for full coverage, my cardboard was really starting to look like a coffin! Should I paint on a big R.I.P.? Add claw streaks from my monster nails? I chose to leave the coffin plain otherwise, but a real artist could add monster eyes or pre-made ripped open monster decals. They do make ’em!

Now it was time to hot glue in my green monster fingers, spacing them out with Dollar Store moss to fill in any remaining gaps. It didn’t take long at all and the creepy long fingers set off the entire piece. Who has time to notice it’s really just a holey, tape together piece of cardboard? Since this wasn’t a coffin for the dead with a skeleton hand and more a buried monster break out, I picked up some Dollar Store chains to go around the box, adding visual balance while hiding some trouble spots. You can buy foldable fabric and cardboard cutout coffins in the Halloween store, but for their borrowed time breakable, store bought faux seems over priced at $25 or more. Then again, seriously sophisticated Halloween folks can get elaborate here with sound effects, motion sensors, or lighting – spending for a prop that will certainly scare as well as last if you have the right materials and know how. Naturally any cutting is best left to mom and dad and kids would need help in holding everything together as it is assembled, but this can be a family friendly project customizing what scary zombie arms or fun tails and toes to expose.

Because I had to open the top box and tape the angles back together, this coffin was slightly flimsy and top heavy. Maybe the cardboard should actually look more like damaged wood with jagged edges, and there are probably more sturdy materials to make your own DIY Coffin. I also dislike the noticeable seams upon closer inspection and even for a coffin getting bent out of shape by the monster inside, the proportions are still a little askew. For an on the whim project, however, this came together quickly in a few days with only paint drying delays. Using found materials and basic supplies that cost under $12, I now have a fun, spontaneous Halloween showstopper.

(It’s amazing what you can do in a day without internet service, and apologies to the workmen outside my house that afternoon who may have looked in my front window to see an upright coffin in the center of the room, you know, just chillin’.)

Revisit more Kbatz Krafts including:

How to Make Stuffed Pumpkins

Spooky Spellbooks

Tea Stained Labels and Spooky Bottles

Creepy Cloches

It’s a Pumpkin Cat House

Re-Purposed Halloween Topiaries

Pumpkin Ottomans, Oh Yes!

DIY Spooky Candle Clusters

Cardboard Tombstones How-To Video

Kbatz Kraft: Paint it Black

Like The Rolling Stones said, sometimes when you want a little morose, all you need is a hefty coat of black paint. A $4 grab bag of bowl filler from our trusty Mr. Goodwill helped me prove this theory as traditional balls and gourds became rustic orbs and goth glam. Shiny brass or holiday gold candlesticks and sconces likewise become sophisticated, useful pieces year-round, and Dollar Store frames turned into expensive-looking conversation pieces.

As discussed in my Re-purposed Black Topiaries project, painting floral items black is more involved, but worth the spooky look. When I picked up another holiday vase filled with pine and poinsettia greenery for $3, out came the flowers and everything else was spray painted black – tacky gold base, leaves, stems, and all. Touch-ups were needed for some of the smaller needles, but now I have a black floral base that can change with the season. After some cream and blush color flowers on the empty picks for the summer, it’s all black flowers for Halloween, red for the holidays, purple for winter, and white for spring. Customizing fake flora displays at the craft store can get pricey, but for $5 including spray paint, I have not just one one of kind centerpiece, but five.

Perhaps everything all black all the time would be too much for some, but one or two black accent pieces can be classic or rustic to suit your décor without being expensive. After last year’s Spooky Bottles and Tea Stained Labels, black paint came to rescue when I wanted to add more creepy jars to my shelf. Saving a few unique bottles from the recycling, painting them black, and wrapping rustic twine around the tops adds a touch of mystery to any apothecary. Have anything broken and useless lingering in your garage? I took apart the base of a damaged silver lamp, removed the wiring and painted the pieces black for a few more goth candle holders.

When my mom gave me this little lantern house – bought for pennies at the thrift store – I was tempted to keep the tin look. However, it felt a bit too country amid the rest of my décor. So I painted it all black for a fun light not just for Halloween, but something that can be used year-round. For those fearful of bigger crafts and projects or those hesitant to go bold and expensive with dark, sophisticated colors, painting smaller items black is a can’t go wrong, affordable touch for any room or season.

Revisit more Kbatz Krafts including:

How to Make Stuffed Pumpkins

Spooky Spellbooks

Tea Stained Labels and Spooky Bottles

Creepy Cloches

It’s a Pumpkin Cat House

Pumpkin Ottomans, Oh Yes

DIY Halloween Candle Clusters

Kbatz Kraft: Cardboard Tombstones Photo Shoot

Trees are changing color, leaves are falling on the ground – it’s the perfect time to break out my DIY Cardboard Tombstones for a little spin in the backyard. You know, just to keep the neighbors talking!

As I detailed in my How To DIY Cardboard Tombstones Video, this type of cardboard graveyard is really only meant for one night of wow during Trick or Treating times or Halloween itself rather than all October long. I had purchased a spray sealant expressly for paper crafts but didn’t like the way it looked on a few tests, and after being stored as a faux stone wall in my basement, three of the earliest stones had chipped paint and needed touch-ups. One thing, however that I didn’t anticipate was how heat may effect the boxes. Fortunately, only the Shakespeare (which was made from taped together corrugated cardboard which I said not to do in my video) needs structural repair after warping in the sun during my photoshoot. If you live in a place that is always hot and sunny on Halloween and intend to have cardboard tombstones outside for more than a few hours, you should probably research what tape or glue and supplies may be better. By keeping these from getting wet, storing them delicately, and expecting to have minor repairs, one can probably get a few seasons worth out of this cardboard graveyard or eventually retire damaged ones and paint more boxes into tombstones anew. That’s not bad for $50 in supplies making twenty big headstones, columns, a fountain, and a unique gateway compared to $20 or $30 for a generic store-bought kit of small, breakable foam headstones.

For a final touch, I hot glued moss on a variety of nooks, crannies, and corners on each of the headstones. I had used green paint on several already for an aged patina and didn’t want to overdo it and cover them all up, but a hint of realistic greenery also hid any imperfections. Remember, though, that some faults are okay – embrace the crooked box or the ripped corner for that two-hundred-year-old spooky look! Although I left my graveyard plain rather than go overboard on accessories like blood for Dracula or tentacles for Lovecraft, those with know-how can add color lights, sensors, sounds, motion effects, and go plum buck wild for an entire haunted house tour through the cemetery. I certainly intend to keep my gateway ready for more spooky photography scenes.

It took me off and on about five weekends to do these, and so long as you leave any cutting or hefty painting to mom and dad, a family doing a few at a time can probably make a good dozen in a few weekends, too. Recycle and get the whole family to embrace their inner Halloween Picassos!

Revisit more Kbatz Krafts including:

How to Make Stuffed Pumpkins

Spooky Spellbooks

Tea Stained Labels and Spooky Bottles

Creepy Cloches

It’s a Pumpkin Cat House

Re-Purposed Halloween Topiaries

Pumpkin Ottomans, Oh Yes!

DIY Spooky Candle Clusters

Cardboard Tombstones How-To Video

Kbatz Kraft: Cardboard Tombstones Video How-To!

Why paint just one box gray when you can make use of all your cardboard boxes for an entire DIY Graveyard?

Check out Yours Truly Kbatz in My Latest Video for details on the pros and cons of making your own Cardboard Cemetery!

 

Kristin Battestella aka Kbatz gets a little BATTY in showing how you, yes YOU can make your very own Customized Cardboard Tombstones for the BEST Halloween Haunt in YOUR Neighborhood! Also featuring Giant Pumpkins, Scary Basements, and One Pesky Feline.

 

Thank you for being part of Horror Addicts.net and enjoying our Video, Podcast, and Media Coverage!

Revisit more Kbatz Krafts including:

How to Make Stuffed Pumpkins

Spooky Spellbooks

Tea Stained Labels and Spooky Bottles

Creepy Cloches

It’s a Pumpkin Cat House

Pumpkin Ottomans, Oh yes

Kbatz Kraft: Yo-Ghost Candlesticks!

Does your family love those on the go and drinkable yogurts? Do you purchase bulk six or eight packs weekly only to rinse and toss the bottles in the recycling bin without a second thought to your penchant for horror décor?

One day the label was partially peeling off my drinkable yogurt, so I pulled it off all the way, as you do. Suddenly, it wasn’t a convenient snack but a blank white slate. I saved it for some more spooky bottle projects – painting it ye olde and putting a creepy label on it as seen in my Spooky Bottles and Tea Stained Labels fun last Halloween.

However, after using pre-cut foam letters on this year’s Cardboard Tombstones, there were a lot of filler pieces left over – the inside of the O, triangles within the A, pop-outs from Ps, Bs, and Rs. Rather than seeing these little black stickers as trash, my horror brain saw the inner O as an open, gasping mouth. Eureka, these little throwaway pieces could be the faces for a ghostly white yogurt bottle. Immediately I chugged down some more yogurt just to save the bottles, sticking the letter bits on the plain white surface. Varying the eye shapes and the angles of the O mouths looked cute, but trying some other shapes for the mouths didn’t look right and it was nice to leave them matching in some way. What then was I to do with a bottle that looks like a ghost? I don’t have any white décor, and even painted the Dollar Store battery candles from a stark white to a more aged, cream color…

Since they are marketed as a purely Halloween item, I buy up all the battery candles once they arrive at the Dollar Store in the fall. I told the checkout lady I used them all year and all over my house – which I guess might be strange if I was stocking up on the ones that have the red blood drips on them. The plain white ones, however, come in a removable black base and are perfect for sitting in the window sill as well as candelabras or sconces where drafts or smoke detectors are impractical for real candles. Putting the candles inside the ghost bottles didn’t work, nor did sitting them on top with the cap removed, but putting the black base on top of the cap fit perfectly!

Now, I had a use for my ghost bottles as ghost candlesticks! Lo, though they still seemed incomplete. A candle stuck on top of a bottle, big deal. I thought I could wrap some twine around the base to create something rustic just like the Halloween décor you see in the store. Ironically, wrapping the connection in plain old Dollar Store twine was one of the most difficult and time consuming tasks in all of my Kbatz Krafts. Rather than gluing one end to wrap wrap and then glue the other end, the curved base forced me to glue as I went, wrap more than one area numerous times for full coverage, and cut or glue pieces in extra layers. I’m pleased with the result, but what I expected to take an hour took an entire evening, a lot of glue sticks, and somehow a bit of back pain.

Cute and rustic aren’t really my style, however, I had the materials to make something fun and went where the spooky appeal took me. It’s tough for Horror Addicts to find some of the décor we like, and if then only around Halloween. By necessity we should look at generic objects in a potentially unique way. These yogurt bottles could be painted orange with pumpkin faces used as a fall vase or green for monsters with fun objects on top. Kids can learn about recycling by saving their own bottles for a personalized craft – so long as adults handle the tedious twine gluing!

Revisit more Kbatz Krafts including:

How to Make Stuffed Pumpkins

Spooky Spellbooks

Tea Stained Labels and Spooky Bottles

Creepy Cloches

It’s a Pumpkin Cat House

Kbatz Kraft: Cardboard Tombstones Video How-To!

Why paint just one box gray when you can make use of all your cardboard boxes for an entire DIY Graveyard?

Check out Yours Truly Kbatz in My Latest Video for details on the pros and cons of making your own Cardboard Cemetery!

 

Kristin Battestella aka Kbatz gets a little BATTY in showing how you, yes YOU can make your very own Customized Cardboard Tombstones for the BEST Halloween Haunt in YOUR Neighborhood! Also featuring Giant Pumpkins, Scary Basements, and One Pesky Feline.

 

Thank you for being part of Horror Addicts.net and enjoying our Video, Podcast, and Media Coverage!

Revisit more Kbatz Krafts including:

How to Make Stuffed Pumpkins

Spooky Spellbooks

Tea Stained Labels and Spooky Bottles

Creepy Cloches

It’s a Pumpkin Cat House

Pumpkin Ottomans, Oh yes

Free Fiction: Smart Machines | A Short by Kay Tracy

It was a Saturday, before the holidays. I had to pull some overtime on a few reports for the boss. Friday night, in the winter, now well after dark, and I couldn’t get the door to open. Something moved behind me low on the floor. A mouse? 

That was three weeks ago, and I am still here. I can’t get out. Gods help me, I truly wish I could say it was because of my boss.  How I wish a mouse was what I had glimpsed!

The firefighters who broke open the door keep trying to tell me I was in shock.

People sometimes ask about it, but no one really ‘knows’. Folks really don’t want to know. 

You have seen them in many offices, those machines that will print, copy, and, staple.  Oh, to be sure, there is someone who is designated to change the ink or toner as it calls for it.  And usually, office etiquette says, if you empty the paper, then you are supposed to put more into the machine.  Easy enough, but there is one thing most people never think about. I know I never did. At least, not until now. 

It was trivial at first. I started noticing little things go missing. It was easy enough to think it was my co-workers.  Steph had run out of paperclips and took some from my desk. No worry there. The odd safety pin that I would keep in my drawer was next. I did think it was a bit rude for folks to go into the drawers of my desk without asking first. I mean, really!

In talking to others, I found out that they too had had things go missing from their desks. Small stuff at first.  Then James complained that his new steel mug and thermos was gone. Julia’s power cord to her computer was next. Harold had an entire desk lamp disappear. The objects were getting larger, and stranger. Soon, anything that was made of metal was going missing.  Small pocket change, keys, it seemed odd. Then William asked when we got the pretty staples. Everyone came to see, and there on his desk was a stack of reports with copper-colored staples. I wondered about all those pennies that were once in the coffee fund can, which was now missing.  But then, so too was the coffee maker!

I am desperate now, trying to find a way out of here.  The parts inside the phone are gone now. The thing grows longer snakelike arms every day.   The larger, more complicated items it brings to me for disassembly. I have no idea when it will have all it wants or needs, maybe then I can leave.

People really should know about these things.   Maintenance includes more than just the paper and ink.  More than just the “machine guy” every three months for a cleaning and lube. The staples should not be overlooked on these ‘smart machines’.

Press Release: Queen Mary Movies (reminder)

Queen Mary’s 2019 Movie Night Summer Series

Presents FREE Outdoor Film Events at the Queen Mary

WHAT:

The Queen Mary is proud to present the 2019 Movie Night Summer Series, welcoming the community to sit back, set up a picnic with friends and family, and soak up the silver screen under the summer night sky. Each movie night will offer guests an immersive cinematic experience with assorted food trucks themed to the film, full bars for those age 21 and over, and the legendary ship and Long Beach Harbor as backdrops. Taking place on select Thursday nights each month May through August and located on a grassy lawn adjacent to the Queen Mary, film titles include Mamma Mia! (2008), a double feature of Indiana Jones – Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Temple of Doom (1984), Grease (1978), and double feature Beetlejuice (1988), Edward Scissorhands (1990). The movie nights are open to all ages and free to attend. Date Night Packages are available for $75 per couple and include a reserved couch for two, one bottle of signature Queen Mary Champagne, assorted snacks, and more!

WHEN:

  • August 22, 2019, 6 p.m. – 12 a.m.: Double Feature: Beetlejuice & Edward Scissorhands

WHERE:

The Queen Mary Seawalk (lawn adjacent to the ship)

1126 Queens Hwy, Long Beach, CA., 90802

TICKETS:

General Admission: Free

Date Night Package Upgrade: $75 per couple

PARKING:

$10 per vehicle on-site.

# # #

About the Queen Mary

Located in the Port of Long Beach, the Queen Mary, an Urban Commons property, features a rich maritime history, authentic Art Deco décor, and stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and Long Beach city skyline. At the time of her maiden voyage in May of 1936, she was considered the grandest ocean liner ever built. The Queen Mary’s signature restaurants include Sir Winston’s, Chelsea Chowder House, Promenade Café, Observation Bar, as well as, a weekly award-winning Royal Sunday Brunch served in the ship’s Grand Salon. History buffs enjoy the ship’s museum with various daily tours, and currently, the ship is featuring their newest exhibition, Their Finest Hours: Winston Churchill and the Queen Mary. The Queen Mary features 35,000 square feet of event space in 13 remarkable Art Deco salons as well as a tri-level, 45,000-square- foot Exhibit Hall. The Queen Mary boasts 347 staterooms including nine suites. For more information or for reservations, visit www.queenmary.com or call (800) 437-2934. The Queen Mary is located at 1126 Queens Highway in Long Beach.

Press Release: Queen Mary / Free Movies

 

Queen Mary’s 2019 Movie Night Summer Series

Presents FREE Outdoor Film Events at the Queen Mary

WHAT:

The Queen Mary is proud to present the 2019 Movie Night Summer Series, welcoming the community to sit back, set up a picnic with friends and family, and soak up the silver screen under the summer night sky. Each movie night will offer guests an immersive cinematic experience with assorted food trucks themed to the film, full bars for those age 21 and over, and the legendary ship and Long Beach Harbor as backdrops. Taking place on select Thursday nights each month May through August and located on a grassy lawn adjacent to the Queen Mary, film titles include Mamma Mia! (2008), a double feature of Indiana Jones – Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Temple of Doom (1984), Grease (1978), and double feature Beetlejuice (1988), Edward Scissorhands (1990). The movie nights are open to all ages and free to attend. Date Night Packages are available for $75 per couple and include a reserved couch for two, one bottle of signature Queen Mary Champagne, assorted snacks, and more!

WHEN:

  • August 22, 2019, 6 p.m. – 12 a.m.: Double Feature: Beetlejuice & Edward Scissorhands

WHERE:

The Queen Mary Seawalk (lawn adjacent to the ship)

1126 Queens Hwy, Long Beach, CA., 90802

TICKETS:

General Admission: Free

Date Night Package Upgrade: $75 per couple

PARKING:

$10 per vehicle on-site.

# # #

About the Queen Mary

Located in the Port of Long Beach, the Queen Mary, an Urban Commons property, features a rich maritime history, authentic Art Deco décor, and stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and Long Beach city skyline. At the time of her maiden voyage in May of 1936, she was considered the grandest ocean liner ever built. The Queen Mary’s signature restaurants include Sir Winston’s, Chelsea Chowder House, Promenade Café, Observation Bar, as well as, a weekly award-winning Royal Sunday Brunch served in the ship’s Grand Salon. History buffs enjoy the ship’s museum with various daily tours, and currently, the ship is featuring their newest exhibition, Their Finest Hours: Winston Churchill and the Queen Mary. The Queen Mary features 35,000 square feet of event space in 13 remarkable Art Deco salons as well as a tri-level, 45,000-square- foot Exhibit Hall. The Queen Mary boasts 347 staterooms including nine suites. For more information or for reservations, visit www.queenmary.com or call (800) 437-2934. The Queen Mary is located at 1126 Queens Highway in Long Beach.

#KillSwitch Facebook Party — TONIGHT!

KSssALT

You are cordially invited to attend the Tech Horror Party of the year. In honor of the Kill Switch release, HorrorAddicts.net will hold a gala Facebook Party complete with games, trivia, and prizes of all sizes. Please, RSVP and bring a friend.

Date: June 14th 2019– TONIGHT!

Time: 6:00-8:00 PM PST

Where: Online at KILL SWITCH RELEASE PARTY

Be there and Be Spooky!!

Sincerely,

HorrorAddicts.net

BHH: “Outcasts” by Valjeanne Jeffers 3 of 3

“Outcasts” by Valjeanne Jeffers 3 of 3

Monique sat in bed beside her window, trying to keep her eyes open. Tomorrow during the chilly dawn, her jailers would drag her out of bed to put her in the cage. Yet instead of sleeping, one of her few refuges, she sat waiting. For what?

 

Just when she’d resolve to wrap up in a blanket and surrender to sleep, a soft cooing sound echoed outside her window. She knew the sound well. It was she and Angelique’s code signal, for whenever they decided to sneak away.

 

“Grab your bag and climb out!” Angelique hissed. “Do it! And hurry up!”

 

Monique snatched up her cloth bag and climbed out of the window. “Now what?”

 

Her wild-eyed friend grinned. “Now we fly!” Grabbing Monique’s hand before she could protest, she half-dragged, half-led her to the forest beyond her hut.

 

“Have gone insane?”

 

“Shh!” Angelique cautioned her again.

 

Through the forest hidden, under the brush, was an airship. The green balloon over it added to the camouflage. It was crudely built without the intricate carvings of Haitian ships, but looked to be in working order.

 

“But how?”

 

John’s mahogany face appeared at starboard side and waved them up.

 

“We can’t do this!” Monique protested. “If they catch us they’ll kill us!”

 

“Do you want to spend the rest of your life in a cage?”  Angelique shot back. “Come on!” She clamored up the ladder with her friend at her heels.

 

“We can’t fly this thing!” Monique protested, all the while clambering the ladder onto the deck.

 

“Yes we can,” John said proudly. “I built her and Angelique can fly as well as I can!”

 

So she was telling the truth!

 

“I’m a ship captain! But I can’t marry the woman I love, because I have no money—and the color of my skin!” All the while he and Angelique were hoisting the sails.

 

Monique followed them inside to the helm, burning with excitement in spite of herself. She’d never actually walked inside an airship. In the center of the deck, was concentric hatch directly below the gathered edges of the balloon. Angelique opened the hatch to reveal a box of copper and brass, and another hole in its center, and depressions on either side.

 

She pumped the depressions and steam flowed from the box filling the balloon, while Monique and John began turning the cranks on the propellers and flaps. The ship began to rise, and Monique thought her heart would burst with joy.

 

“Here we go!” John shouted. The ships wings flapped, the propeller whirled, tearing and blowing the foliage and lifted from the ground.

 

The airship sputtered forward. “Give her more steam and turn the propellers faster!” The women grunted turning the propeller faster. “Angelique trade places with me!” Angelique took the helm, as he and Monique turned the propellers. The airship picked up speed.

 

The mulatto woman grinned. “My parents thought they could marry me off to an old man. Won’t they be surprised?”

 

“Where will we go?” Monique asked.

 

“There’s an island across the ocean, Santo Domingo,” said John. “Haiti’s armies freed the slaves there too.”

 

The glory of a parvenu life thrust upon her was slowly taking hold. She was free—free of her mother. Free of a lifetime of cages. Free to love who she chose. The Loa Erzulie had answered her prayers after all!

 

But Simone was still lost to her. A weight of sadness pressed against the walls of her new-found liberation. And there were other doubts as well. “What if they don’t want us there? How do we know it will be any better?”

 

A shadow crept from the helm, jerking Monique away from her objections—amber-colored ghosts that instantly became creatures with the head of a bat and four arms.

 

“It’s Madam Cecile’s sorcery!” John shouted. “We must have been spotted!”

 

More shades reared up at them, claws ready. They paused, clearly confused. The three friends were most certainly not French soldiers. The ghosts turned away and attacked the airship dash in earnest, ripping and tearing.

 

Another one zoomed over their heads and struck the helm and it exploded in flames. They screamed—trying to fight the creatures off and fly the ship at the same time. They began losing altitude. The ship was sinking.

 

Below them, a thick, wavering mist blocked their path. The friends eyes were drawn to it. . . they could see images dancing within the fog. . . dancing to the beat of drums that suddenly echoed in the night about them. A cooling breeze wafted toward them . . . One image came into focus. . .

 

The Loa, Erzulie.

 

Their terror vanished.

 

Without another thought they flew into the fog.

 

And out the other side.

 

The flames snuffed out and the turbulence of the airship dissipated out as they flew out of the nosedive. “Let’s land there!” Monique shouted, pointing to the beach below. As the three friends coasted into a smooth descent, their eyes widened. They recognized the Haitian shoreline.

 

“We never left home!” John exclaimed.

 

“Wait a minute,” Angelique said slowly. “When we left Haiti it was midnight. Look at the sky!” A  bright noonday sun beamed downed on them.

 

They stared at the turquoise blue waters, as if the ocean held answers. “This cannot be,” John breathed. “Have we traveled backwards in time?”

 

“Non, c’est impossible. . .” Monique breathed. “The only thing we can do is start walking. Maybe when we find town we’ll find our answers.”

 

They covered the airship with seaweed and debris as best as they could. After their strange trip they were a little afraid of it. But the friends still thought it best to protect it in case they needed to escape.

 

When they reached town they discovered they’d left Haiti only to return. But to an alien Republic.

 

They didn’t recognize the township. What was even more incredible was that in this Haiti, the revolution had taken place a month ago. No one knew them here. So, they gave a vague descriptions of a small hamlet they’d traveled from, and no one they meet seemed to care much. Monique found a job cooking for a rich, elderly woman named Michelle. John and Angelique took a job working in the sugar fields she owned.

 

Later, Monique questioned her employer about the customs of her “new home” and found out that class discrimination did not exist in Haiti—informal or otherwise. There were no restrictions upon homosexuality either. Michelle was incredulous that any Republic would have such rules. “We were once slaves, n’est-ce pas? Why would we oppress one another?” The older woman sucked her teeth, and shook her head. “That must truly be a terrible place you came from. No wonder you ran away.”

 

Monique pressed her lips together and said no more. It was my home and I loved it dearly. Now Haiti is here, yet lost to me. Perhaps forever. . .I wonder what unpleasant truths this new world holds?

 

##

 

“We’re going to stay, Monique,” said Angelique. “John and I can be together here.”

 

“What about your mama and papa?”

 

Angelique looked away. “I love them and wish them happiness. But I love John more. Perhaps one day I’ll look for them.” She shrugged. “Perhaps not.”

 

“Both my parents are dead,” the young man added. “Angelique is all the family I have now.”

 

The three were sharing a meal in the tiny house she and John had rented together. The couple had married the same week they’d landed.

 

“You should stay too,” Angelique suggested.

 

Monique had saved a little coin and was determined to search the island until she found Simone. “No, I have to find her. I have to know if she’s happy.”

 

“What will you do, cherie, if you meet her and she is happy. . . with you,” asked John. “We still know so little about this strange world, n’est-ce pas?”

 

Monique smiled. “We will become the best of friends—the three of us. I will wish her well.”

 

“And I will be back.”

 

She left the next morning to find her destiny. In the days to come, some happy, others melancholy, she thought often of the airship they’d left behind on the beach. . .

 

And whatever became of it.

THE END


Valjeanne Jeffers is a graduate of Spelman College, a member of the Carolina African American Writer’s Collective, and the author of eight books.Valjeanne was featured in 60 Black Women in Horror Fiction. Her first novel, Immortal, is featured on the Invisible Universe Documentary time-line. Her stories have been published in Reflections Literary and Arts Magazine; Steamfunk!; Griots: A Sword and Soul Anthology; Genesis Science Fiction Magazine; Griots II: Sisters of the Spear; Possibilities; and The City.Book I of The Switch II: Clockwork was nominated for the best ebook novella of 2013 (eFestival of Words); and her short story Awakening was published as a podcast by Far Fetched Fables. Preview or purchase Valjeanne’s novels at: Valjeanne Jeffers official site

HorrorAddicts.net Flashback – Holiday Horror

Our very first episode with holiday horror was Michele Roger’s Santa Claws, way back on episode #13. That episode has been locked in the vault ever since we switched to Libsyn… BUT! We have uncovered the show!

#13 Michele Roger, Santa Claws

There are several other holiday-related shows I am going to post here in case you need some HorrorAddicts.net Holiday fun.

#52 Jack Mangan, Holiday Horror Theme

“Jack Mangan’s Santa Thing is a great read/listen for horror Xmas tales.” ~ Dan Shaurette

#53 Cal Miller, Holiday Horror Theme

“Cal Miller’s Scary Santa is just the thing to make you rethink the big red guy.” ~ Emerian Rich

WWW Challenge Special – Holiday Horror Challenge

 “It never ceases to amaze me how great a job these women do with holiday horror!” ~Rhonda R. Carpenter

Batty for Bats – No, Really!

Batty for Bats – No, Really!

By Kristin Battestella

 

 

I knew I couldn’t stay for the whole program, but when the Free Public Library of Monroe Township posted about a special presentation called Batty for Bats, well I knew I had to take a gander!

Ms. Mary, a naturalist from the Rancocas Nature Center, 794 Rancocas Road, Westhampton, NJ 08060, quizzed local children at the library on what they knew about bats and tested them with some true or false statements. When I asked Ms. Mary if the kids attending these programs were usually creeped out, she said that the snakes and reptiles were actually quite popular – and the youths tonight agreed that bats were “cool.” After all, bats groom themselves just like cats do!

The children – and let’s be honest the parents there, too – were curious to see some of the bat materials on display. Facts on bats such as wing span and heartbeats per minute were hit home for the kids by donning some costume wings to test their own wing spans and putting on stethoscopes to hear their own heartbeats in a “How a Bat Compares to Me” activity. Everyone had a good laugh while learning the basics about bats from Ms. Mary – who confessed to not actually being a bat expert because she prefers bugs.

Based in Burlington County within the 200 acre Rancocas Park and formerly part of the New Jersey Audubon Society, The Rancocas Nature Center puts on a variety of nature and educational programs in South Jersey. For more information, visit rancocasnaturecenter.org or follow facebook.com/FriendsofRNC to support their programs.

 

And no, there are no vampire bats in New Jersey, thanks for asking.

 

A very special Thank You to Ms. Mary, the Rancocas Nature Center, and the Monroe Library for allowing me to stop by the program and take a few pictures!

Free Fiction: The Lost Tapes by James Goodridge

The Lost Tapes

(c) 2017 by James Goodridge

“I need more time Ross,” pleaded Sully Grunwald, phone in one hand, 32oz Burger King cup half filled with Old Taylor and slowly melting ice in the other. On the other end of the taunt conversation was Laird Ross. A Merit was burning itself out in an ashtray.

 

“Look you old Grunge rock fool. I’ve given you more than enough time to find the tapes. I can’t hold off my people any longer on this investment.

 

The studio has to be demolished so my high rises can go up, time is money in Manhattan. Stop shitting on me bro.” said Ross. The tapes mentioned well a holy grail of the jazz world. Azure Crenshaw’s lost tapes were last seen in 1979, the night Crenshaw walked out of legendary Sound Cave studios on West 52st. He and the tapes disappearing off of the face of the earth.

 

“Please Ross I’ve made progress. I’ve found a cracked wall in the vault, it looks hollow on the other side,”said Sully a silver haired, slim bodied man sitting on a recliner in a tattered New York football Giants bath robe; the lone glow in his living room ESPN on his HD. Over the decades Sully was the go to man for creating audio  music master pieces in all genres,But now in retirement he needed cash to live right. Atlantic City black jack tables had screwed up his savings .

 

“Listen I don’t have time for this MC rap boy Sully. Plus who the hell listens to jazz these days anyway?” said Ross with the constant music genre belittling of the old man.

 

“Why you son of…Listen Mr. Ross, let me explain this to you again, Crenshaw at the time of his disappearance in 1979 was a icon in the jazz world like Miles Davis. You are old enough to have heard of Miles right?” the question was forlorn but Sully asked anyway.

 

“No disco dude.” said Ross to which if Sully could see his millennial indifferent shrug trough the phone he would have punch Ross. Thank god Sully knew nothing about Skype.

 

“At the time of his disappearance Crenshaw was a jazz icon, the tracks I helped him lay down were going to change jazz which was a crossroad. Take it to another level.” Ross listened to Sully while Googling the information on Crenshaw, found it impressed him. Ross smelled money.

 

Sully continued. “The day he stepped out of Sound Cave he was to bring the master tapes to GRT records, but when he didn’t show up GRT was pissed off, and  after so many years GRT folded, the police made  Crenshaw a cold case, and his family had him declared legally dead after so many years. His official work is in public domain no estate. That’s why I need more time.” Sully sensed the hedge fund and real estate mogul must be doing research while they talked. One thing Sully did know was Google. “I got him,” he thought, flipping the bird to the phone in the semi-darkness of his New Jersey home.

 

“Okay heavy metal bro you’ve got two more days. And that’s it!” Cutting off the phone conversation Ross hoped the old fart would deliver.

***

After so many impatient knocks on green tinted glass doors taped over with New York city construction permit notices Sully unlocked the doors to let a frowning young man in a gray single breasted suit, blue open collared shirt, and blond man bun atop his head in.

 

“All right soul man where’s it at?” asked Ross, looking at his Rolex.

 

“Hey, for Christ’s sake can’t you call me Sully?” asked Sullivan H. Grunwald in a wrinkled olive suit under it a black AC/DC tee shirt.

 

“Okay SULLY. Let’s just keep this moving,” said Ross snatching the flash light offered to him out of Sully’s hand.

 

“Follow me. Keep your flash light on the floor at times, the workman have already pulled up some of the carpet,” warned Sully. Leading the business man through the lobby to a door which in turn led to a circular area almost like a second lobby, doors colored and labeled studios: green, pink, ocher, and amber, studios that helped recording artists earn gold and platinum records over the decades; now just a ghost of their musical past. Between pink and amber studios were a bland red door leading to the basement.

“How far down does this stairway go funky man sorry SULLY?” Ross wasn’t uneasy about the tightness of the stairway like Sully but had to wonder how deep down was the basement. Dim neon lights descending like them down the stairways ceiling helped their flash lights. “We’re here,” said Sully.

 

The vault wasn’t a vault but a glorified storage room, yet solid enough to hold a poor soul prisoner in it for an eternity.

 

“Bingo, bango, bongo, Ross there they are!” laughed Sully pointing the beam from his flashlight to a hole in a wall four feet by four feet at the end of the room. In front of the small abyss was an old wooden milk create with a Gold Medal Milk logo stenciled on the sides. Inside the long defunct milk company create wrapped in dusty plastic were six TDK reel to reel boxes labeled in sharpie black pen: A. Crenshaw Sound Cave sessions 1978-1979. Yes Bing, bango, bongo was right.

 

“You can go look them over if you like, then we can bring them up to the green studio, I have a reel to reel deck hooked up in there we can sample Crenshaw and I’s masterwork. Azure’s rendition of Sonny and Monk’s ‘Friday the 13th‘ is a killer diller,” beamed Sully, Old Taylor on his breath.

 

“Analog man what do you mean Crenshaw and you? You had Jack bone shit to do with those tapes except turn knobs when he told you to or fetch coffee, maybe a pint of wine,” chuckled Ross. “Plus this is on my property. MY PROPERTY. I tell you what I’ll give you a nice wavy fee for this.”

 

It was then and there both men surmised that a change in plans were in order. Sully’s change was to kill Ross and seal him up in the wall and sell the master tapes and Ross’s change was to tie Sully up in the courts over ownership, until the old bastard croaked. Sully raised his flashlight to come down on Ross’s head, but Ross quickly side stepped him. Flash lights dropped as both men dropped to the floor in a death struggle. Ross’s youth and sadistic force versus Sully’s adrenaline fueled rage. Flash lights rolled around the dusty floor, as a punch from Sully made blood squirt out from Ross’s nose, but Ross threw a fist to Sully’s left jaw, making the old studio worker howl.

 

“What bro what?! Your dentures loose?! I was going to tie you up in court until you became worm food, but now I think you’ll fit nice in that whole back there you old punk rock turd.” Ross straddling Sully on the floor wiped his crimson leaking nose with his suit sleeve while debating whether to continue pummeling Sully or strangle the life out of him. Sully ended Ross’s debate by blindsiding him on  his right temple with one of the flashlights. The sound of the blow cracked like a ball coming off a ball players bat going yard. The man bun Ross wore came loose as he pitched forward on top of Sully dead.

 

“How ya like me now?! K-pop boy!” Sully wheezed at the lifeless Ross as he pushed him off, then staggered up to stand using a blood spattered metal shelf to brace himself. Digging in his blood and dusted suit pocket he pulled out a soft pack of Merits and after flinging a few broken cigarettes out the pack, one found a Merit still intact to smoke. “Just couldn’t put a filter on your mouth Ross could you!” wheezed Sully.

 

“Yo! Still bogarting credit for shit I created Sully?” came a voice.

 

“Screw you Ross!” yelled Sully at Ross’s corpse before realizing there was a third person in the vault the limited flashlight beams showed a shadow moving about.

 

“Who’s… Aaww I know who. I’m not scared of you Azure. Been a while since we last talked.” Sully tried to be fearless but his hand shook, orange embers from his Merit, flying on to his olive suit and down on Ross’s body gave him away.

 

Dragging himself into the light was Azure Crenshaw. Afro and sideburns specter gray from cement and sheetrock dust. Skin once smooth mocha brown,now greenish brown and slowly sliding off his facial bones; mushy in texture. A dark spot on Crenshaw’s right temple showed where Sully cracked his skull open with a silver ashtray forty-two years ago during an argument over a raise and more acknowledgment credits on an album cover. A tattered white three-piece suit hung limply off the missing cold case victim.

 

“You didn’t want to list me as producer Azure.” Sully backed away and up against a wall.

 

“For what damn it! I was the one playing sax not you! Listen Grunwald right about now yo’ ass is grass. Yo’ got a dead man on the floor yo’ ass got’s to explain. And yo’ done went and opened up the wall where yo’ had my damn body buried damn it. All these years yo’ went around like shit ain’t wrong. Baby doll Ms. Grunwald had to push you out hard at birth cause yo’ balls was so big.I could do yo’ ass in right now, just like in those horror comics my bass player Chucky Briscoe read between takes back then, but nah son it will be too easy on yo’ ass. I have a plans for you Sully.” By now Sullivan H. Grunwald had slid down the side of the wall and was sitting; he was a haunted wreck. Azure sat down next to him a placing a ghoulish hand on Sully’s knee. Sully shuddered.

 

Once the legal battles ended, Laird Ross’s disappearance was turning the corner into a cold case. The “Azure Crenshaw Lost Sessions” reinvigorated the jazz world. People with no knowledge of jazz at all purchased downloads just to be trendy. Collectors scrambled for the CD and vinyl box sets. Sully parleyed his success into a move down to a nice bungalow down in Key West.

 

“So what do I do now?” Sully looked as if he was conversing with himself in the bathroom mirror of his Key West bungalow. He waited for Azure’s decayed rancid breath reply to emulate from his own mouth. Neighbors started to wonder about the new neighbor, who mumbled to himself and how one minute he has minty fresh breath and the next minute he needs a breath mint; in fact a fist full of breath mints. “I hate this polyester suit nothing for nothing, you know,” said Sully in the white three piece.

 

“You don’t know style, my man. Now we go to step two.” Azure’s image was behind Sully to the left in the mirror.

 

“Step two?” Sully stopped thinking about suicide long ago since Azure was right there in his head.

 

“Listen, Mr. Funk, Texas two-step, house music, ska, bluegrass man. You’re going to help me get my hedge fund back!” said the decomposing head of Laird Ross held forth by Crenshaw, made courtesy of Sully’s body disposal work, grinned from behind Sully’s mirrored right shoulder.


Born and raised in the Bronx, James is new to writing speculative fiction. After ten years as an artist representative and paralegal James decided in 2013 to make a better commitment to writing.jamesgoodridge headshotCurrently, he is writing a series of short “Twilight Zone” inspired stories from the world of art, (The Artwork) and a diesel/punkfunk saga (Madison Cavendish/Seneca Sue Mystic Detectives) with the goal of producing compelling stories

Free Fiction Wednesday: Last Stand by J. C. Eickelberg 3/3

Last Stand
Part 3/3 – the end

By: J. C. Eickelberg

3rd part of an exciting 3-part story inspired by and in remembrance of the great George Romero.

The survivors ran toward their cars.  Emily and Barb sprinted forward, leading the pack as they went.  Brando stayed at the back motivating the slower runners.  Harry ran to the building, grabbed a forgotten shovel and ran back toward Brando.  The shovel went up as he ran, then arched down.  Brando went around Harry, pushing one of Emily’s friends along.  A meaty thwack and a grunt got Brando to turn.  Harry swung again at the prone figure.  Another smashed melon sound echoed off the building.

“Stay down,” Harry spat.  A hand twitched.  “Stop already.”  He swung again and the shovel broke.  The figure stopped moving

“You killed him,” Brando said.

“Nope,” Harry said.  “Was already dead.”  He was breathing hard.  He pointed the broken handle at the gaping chest wound the corpse had.

“We need to go.  Now!” Brando said.

Harry drove the broken handle into the ground through the corpse’s chest wound as if it were a vampire.

“No, we’re not,” Emily said.  “The gate’s locked.”

A look of horror washed over Harry’s face.  “That can’t be.  The lock’s broke.  It wasn’t locked when we got here.”

“Nope.  It’s locked now,” Barb verified.  She pulled and rattled the locked gate.

“Any other gates we can use?” Brando asked.

“This is always the last one locked,” Harry answered.  “Whoever fixed the lock didn’t tell me.  It’s been broke since last winter.”

“Do you have any keys for the gate?” Brando asked.  Harry shook his head.  “What about the building?  We need to get inside.”

Harry answered with movement to the building.  His hand went to a pocket to get a key.  Emily and Brando watched for any dead walkers moving their way.  The rest waited for the door to open.  Rusty hinges motivated them into motion.  Harry was swept through the opening.  Brando pulled the door shut and locked it.

Barb found the breakroom.  She fell on a worn couch and shook.  Her friends paced, worrying about what happened.  Lights came on, giving more illumination than the emergency lights.  Harry sank into an overstuffed chair, rattled by what happened to his friends.  Brando and Emily fell to their combat training to secure the building.  They moved efficiently through each room.  A nearby maintenance bay had a door with a window.  This last door to be checked was found locked.  They looked out to see an empty parking lot.  Light from the flashlight moved with them.  All locks had been verified locked.  Turning back to join their friends, they didn’t expect the door to rattle.  A shadow appeared outside.  A light above the door showed a vacant set of eyes.  Emily and Brando watched the figure briefly.  It didn’t see them.  They faded into the shadows and made their way back to the others.

“They’re knocking on the door,” Brando said.

“Shit.  We’re stuck here,” Harry said.  “We’re in serious trouble now.”

“Do you have a phone here?” Barb asked.  “Maybe we can call the police?”

“Already tried.  They’re swamped with calls,” Harry said, rejected.  “Let’s stay here and keep calling.  This building is locked and secure as a mausoleum.”

“Hopefully not our mausoleum,” Barb said.  She was more depressed than Harry.

“Cheer up.  They need to get in to do anything to us.”  Harry offered Barb a smile.  She smiled back.  “I know this building.  I work here, remember?”

“And you’d know about getting out of here.  Right?”  Brando gave him a piercing look.

“Don’t give me that look.  I’m not brain dead,” Harry quipped.

“Then prove it.  You’re not shambling like them,” Emily said, pointing down the hall.  “Yet.”  Her look wasn’t far from vicious.

They settled in the breakroom and listened to the radio.

“This is the top of the hour news.  Reports have come in about groups moving around the city dressed as zombies.  Accidents are clogging streets from people walking into traffic.  Police have their hands full dealing them.  We ask people to stay on sidewalks and look both ways before crossing the street…”

Static garbled words as the station changed.

“Reporters on the scene have reported groups roaming through parks.  They have seen people dressed for a zombie party…”

Another station was tuned in.

“People have reported an unruly party at The Fire Alarm.  Party goers have relocated to St. George’s Necropolis Cemetery…”  The sound faded as another station was searched for.

“Keep it on that station,” Harry said.

“Why?” Emily asked.

“That’s where we are. The Fire Alarm is across the street.”

Emily turned back to the station.

“Reports are coming in about people being attacked in the cemetery.  Police have been alerted to graves being vandalized and mausoleums being broken into…”

“Broken into, my ass.  People have been breaking out.  There’s more dead walking than living out there.”  Harry paced with his hands on the side of his head.

“This just in.  The National Guard has been called in to help control unruly crowds.”  Emily and Brando looked at each other.  “Use of force has been authorized.  Police Chief Reynolds has declared all groups to disband and go home.  A curfew is now in effect.  Anyone found outside will be arrested and fined.

“Once again, a curfew has been implemented and the National Guard has been brought in to help disperse crowds.  Police and guardsmen are authorized to respond with force if they are attacked.”

Emily turned the radio down.  She stood surveying the room.

“Well that says we stay here,” Brando said.

“We can’t go anywhere, anyhow,” Harry said.  “The gates are locked and we can’t get to our cars to go anyplace else.”

“Good.  If we’re not going anywhere, I need to use the bathroom,” one of Emily’s friend said.

“I saw it before.  I’ll show you,” Emily said.  They walked out.  “I want to check the windows and doors again.”

“Do you think we’ll get out of here, Emily?”

“Yes, we will, Brenda,” she answered, showing more confidence than she felt.  “This building is strong enough to stand against storms.  What’re a few zombies leaning on doors?”

“Then why check on them?” Brenda asked.

“I’m too wound up to sit still.  I need to do something.”  Emily waited as Brenda used the bathroom.

“Would you mind some company checking the doors?” Brenda asked.

“Not at all.  Why?”  Emily led her away from the breakroom.

“Harry is driving me crazy.  He’s too high strung to be around.”

“Brenda, you’ve said the same thing about Barb,” Emily said.  “You still hang out with her.”

“At least she knows and does something positive about it.  Like running with you,” Brenda said, smiling.  “Harry’s really wound up about what’s going on out there.”

“This is where he works,” Emily said, giving Brenda a hard look.  “This whole place is trashed.”  Brenda relented.

Emily went to the side door they used to get inside.  It was still locked.  Brenda peeked out through the window in the door before following Emily to the maintenance bays.  Emily looked out windows in the garage doors.  She stopped and stared out.  Shambling forms moved around the parking lot.  Nothing moved toward the building.  She sighed in relief.

Brenda screamed and threw a wrench across the service bay.  Emily locked a savage glare at her friend.

“God, I hate rats,” Brenda said.  She saw Emily and covered her mouth.  “I’m sorry.”  Wide eyes shimmered, ready to spill tears.

“What’s going on?”  Harry came running in.  Brando close behind.

“It would’ve been nice knowing you have rats in the building,” Emily declared, looking at Harry.  Her remark included Harry.  She moved purposefully away from the door.  Seeing the scuff in the floor, she tracked the course of the wrench.  Next to a garbage can sat a bloody wrench and a twitching rat.  A quick hit and the rat was dispatched.  “All that pitching softballs paid off.  Good shot, Brenda.”  She went to ease her friend’s stress from making noise when silence would have been better.

Harry came over with a shovel and took care of moved the rat into the can.

“We just heard on the radio buzzards and vultures are affected, too.  Who’s to say rats aren’t?”  Harry pointed out.

“I smacked it good,” Emily said.  The can rattled.  Harry picked up a brick off a pallet of loose masonry remnants.  He lifted the lid and looked in.  He launched the brick, looked in again and smiled.

“So, did I.  Now it’s not moving,” Harry said, satisfied.

“That won’t work for what’s out there,” Brando said.  He stood by the door.  “There’s about fifty zombies out here.  And they’re coming this way.”

Both doors for the service bays rattled with impacts from the horde outside.  The door shook again as another wave of bodies moved through the glow of the yard light.  By the sound of the door, it wasn’t going to stay intact.

“We’re so screwed,” Harry said.

The small door creaked, but held firm against the crowd.  The two big doors on either side flexed as more bodies pushed against them.  Brando moved along the wall of tools looking for options.  Emily saw this and joined him.  Shovels, lengths of pipe and a couple of wrenches were confiscated.

“What’s this used for?” Brenda asked.

“That’s a mattock.  Used to dig trenches with the hoe side and cut roots with the axe side,” Brando said.  He took it, implement end up and tapped it on the floor.  The metal end slide to the floor with a clang.  “Now it’s a bat.  Go to town, Slugger.”  She swung a practice swing and smiled.  “Good.  Keep it going down range.”

“Don’t stand behind her.  Her back swing is killer,” Emily stated.

“Noted,” Brando said.  “Harry, are there any trucks in the bays on the other side of the building that work?”

“An old pickup.  Runs rough, but will move.”

“It better.  We’re getting out of here,” Brando said.

“We won’t make it through all of them,” Brenda said.

“We only need to out distance them,” Emily said.  A long pipe wrench in one hand.  She wielded it effortlessly.  “All we need to do is keep them off the truck as we pick up speed.”

“Harry, get the keys.  Emily, let’s get everyone to the truck,” Brando said.

They went to the breakroom and gathered everyone together.  The group came out as Harry left the supervisor’s office with a set of keys.  He led the group to the other end of the building.  The lights flickered on as Harry flipped the switches.  In the nearest bay was a pick up with a dump box insert loaded with dirt.

“This won’t work,” Brando declared.

“The pickup is on the other side,” Harry said.  He walked behind the dump truck and looked out a window.  He tossed his shovel in the bed of the truck.

“Damn, man.  I’d rather take the dump truck.  This rust bucket is ready to fall apart,” Brando spat.  Emily and the other ladies looked at the dented, rusty relic that was old when they were playing with dolls.

“That dump truck has two flat tires and is slow as a snail.  We might as well walk out of here,” Harry said from the front seat.  Keys jingled and a whiny buzzer sounded.  “Get in.”

“I’m not climbing up there with a skirt on,” Barb said.

“Get in front,” Brando said opening the other front door.  “I’ll get the garage door open.”

“Don’t open it yet.  I want to make sure it starts,” Harry said as Barb pulled the door closed.

“I’m expecting to get out of here alive,” Barb declared.  Her large eyed expression locked on Harry.

“If you don’t, you won’t have far to go to find a place to rest,” Harry said as the truck turned over.  It gave a few anemic pops and shuttered to life.  “Now be quiet and hang on.”

Brando hit a button and hopped onto the truck.  No one shambled around anywhere in sight.  The truck moved out into the night, slowly gaining speed.

“Can’t this go faster?”

“There’s a reason this heap rarely leaves the cemetery.  We’re still going faster than they are,” Harry responded.  A group came from the side of the narrow road.

Brenda swung and connected.  The crack of a skull sounded over the noise of the truck.  Emily caved in another skull.  Gore clung in the jaws of the wrench.

“Just barely,” Brenda stated.

“Get out and walk then,” Harry shot back.  “Otherwise shut up and let me get you through a gate.”  The truck lurched over two obstacles in the road.  “Two less for you to swing at.”

“Just don’t hit a tree or tombstone.  I want to get home,” Barb complained.

“Front door service for the pretty lady.”  Harry smiled at her.

“Shut up and drive, Harry,” Barb said.  “Maybe I’ll give you a kiss when I’m home.”

“Don’t expect to get a prince from that frog, Princess,” Brenda muttered.  Another swing and a hit.

“I get first dibs if he grabs for her,” Emily said, as the truck made a turn.

“I’ll make sure he stays down,” Brenda said.

They made a gentle turn around a large plot.  A gradual arc brought the shed into view.  Everyone voiced their opinions about going into the group of zombies.  Thumps and crunching announced less batting practice.  Speed gave Harry reason to be happy.  The old truck hit the gate with a satisfying crash.

“So long, George,” Brando yelled.  “Don’t forget to stay dead.”

Everyone hooted and hollered as they left the cemetery behind.  Lights blazed in the shed as shadows moved around the now quiet parking lot.  Scratching came from the roof as vultures settled next to other roosting birds.  One gave out a garbled croak.

“Shut your trap.  You missed out on your meal,” George scolded the vulture.  “I’ve got mine.”  He held Harvey’s head by the hair.  Harvey’s eyes locked into an upward gaze, as if looking at his savior.

***

Harry drove down streets normally busy, even at this hour of the night.  Few cars moved to slow their progress.  Occasional police cars could be heard down side streets.  One screamed past them, lights painting everything red and blue.  Barb pointed directions to the address she shared with Emily.  Outside a modest brownstone was a rare parking spot.  Parked, and drawing no attention from unwanted undead pedestrians, they started disembarking.  The truck sputtered and chugged after the key was turned to the off position.  It gasped and backfired.  Harry pointed at Barb’s door as Emily got out of the bed of the truck.  Emily opened the door and pulled her sister out.  Brando offered a gentlemanly hand to help Brenda off the truck.  She smiled and left a hand on his arm a little longer than necessary.

“Let’s go, love birds,” Harry said following Emily up the stairs.  She had the door open, waiting for them.  Brenda smiled at Brando and went up.  Emily had a quick thought of sadness.  She’d hoped for a bit of romance with him.  Everyone else was already inside waiting.

“You touch me and I’ll leave you out here,” Brenda told Harry.

“What’s up with you?” he asked her back.

“She doesn’t like you,” Brando said.  “Maybe it’s your choice in beds.”  He gave his friend a smartass smirk.

“Bite me,” he said.  Brando glared at him from two steps up, his gaze cold as ice.

“Any other night that’d be funny,” Brando said.  His hand tightened on the discolored mattock handle.

“Sorry,” Harry said, shoulders slumped.

Harry shuffled inside after the ladies.  Brando scanned the street and under vehicles.  All remained quiet.  The truck ticked as it cooled.  He turned to go in as a flapping of wings caught his attention.  A vulture landed on the square masonry post at the bottom of the steps.  The mattock handle made a soft whistle as he swung at the bird.  It exploded on impact with the hickory handle.

“Creepy ass bird,” Brando said, dancing up the stairs.

“Nice swing,” Brenda said.

“I was on a NCAA championship baseball team in college.  I coach a community team now,” he said.

They settled into talking once the door locked behind them.  The truck wasn’t going anywhere.  Brando told about a rapidly growing puddle under it.  He was soon talking with Brenda on the couch.  Harry and Barb were chatting amicably on stools at a kitchen counter.  Emily tuned in a news channel for updates about the zombie hordes.

“So, what about this kiss you mentioned earlier for getting you home?” Harry asked.

“I said maybe,” Barb reminded him.  “There was no guarantee offered.”

“I’ll second that,” Emily said.  Her cold gaze settled on him.  She placed the pipe wrench between them.  It rested on the counter in front of them with gore still embedded in the jaws.  “I’m no stranger to working on pipes.”  Warmth drained out of Harry as he became aware of Emily’s meaning.

A knock on the front door ended their conversation.  Harry swallowed hard as he watched Emily move to answer the door.  A sigh of relief escaped him as he turned back to Barb.  Relaxed, he offered a warm smile for Barb.  She was cleaning what she could out of the jaws of the wrench with a dish towel.

“She doesn’t clean off tools as well as I do,” Barb said, a half smile on her face.  He watched with the realization Barb was familiar with using the wrench.

Emily peered out the peep hole.  Uniformed soldiers stood outside.  Recognition registered and she opened the door.  Soldiers oozed through the narrow opening.  Four soldiers went through the lower level, then upper level in practiced cadence.  The most weathered soldier remained at her side as locks were engaged again.

“What’s up, Top?” she asked.

“Been trying to get a hold of you, Ma’am.  We’ve been activated,” he said.  “We came by to make sure you’re okay.”  His southern accent said he was a pleasant man, but his cold blue gaze scanning the room demanded a no bullshit response from anyone.

“I’ve been out.  Kind of an exciting night,” she said walking back to join her sister.

“So, you know what’s going on?”

“We just came from St. George’s Necropolis Cemetery,” Brando said, following them into the kitchen.

“Barb and Harry, can you keep Brenda company?” Emily said.  She had a commanding demeanor about her now, matching the blue-eyed senior enlisted man following her

“Sure,” she said.  The wrench was clean and went with her.

“Ma’am?” Brando asked.

“First Sergeant Grumman, this is Brando,” Emily said.

“Marlon Brando?” First Sergeant asked, a bit of humor to ease the tension.

“Staff Sergeant Miller, Marine Corps,” Brando responded.  His relaxed, night out posture evaporated.  His military bearing shown through his civilian attire.  “Six years active duty, now in the reserves, Top.”

“Thought so,” Top said, giving him a once over.  “Hope you don’t mind hanging with some army pukes.”  A statement.

“We all wear green and bleed red.  Have a common target.”  Brando heard a grunt come from the weathered, sharp eyed enlisted leader as he turned to check on his men.  “I don’t mind one bit.”

“He likes you, Marine,” Emily said, looking up from a message on her phone.  “Be right back.  I have to change.”

A few greetings came from the soldiers as she passed.  Brando went out to check on Harry.  He sat talking with Barb, giving her a respectful distance, and a friendly look at the wrench.  Brenda was shoulder to shoulder with a soldier at the window.  She turned to look at Brando when the minutes lengthened in the silence.  Movement down the hall got Brando’s attention.

“Brando.  You can put your eyes back in your head,” Brenda said.  “If she catches you drooling, she’ll clean the floor with you.”  The soldier next to her watched him, in a friendly manner.  Their resemblance was unmistakable.  Brother and sister, he thought.

“I’d believe it,” he said.  He gave Brenda a friendly smile.

“She’s cleaned a few clocks with a pugil stick,” Top said matter-of-factly.  He watched Brando.  The no bullshit, blue eyed stare was back.

“Captain on deck,” one soldier chimed.

“This is war, gentlemen, no saluting, and no messes in my house if you can help it.”  She looked at all present.  The uniform enhanced her military attitude.  Her hair was tightly pulled back and off her collar.  “Captain Morgan to you now.”  She looked from Brando to Harry.  A finger went up.  “Either one of you makes a crack and you’ll look like vulture outside.”  Her manner was professional soldier now.  Her look was equal to First Sergeant Grumman’s.  Cold and businesslike.

Harry shrunk away from her, fear stained his face.  The wrench let him know how far to go.  Brando accepted the statement.

“We finished the vulture off for you.”

“We, First Sergeant?”

“Sergeant Stutzgard finished it,” Top said.

“That thing disintegrated when I hit it,” Brando stated.

“The head tried to bite me,” Stutzgard said.  “Sorry about the floor mat, ma’am.”

“That’s what it’s there for, Stutz,” she reassured him.  “First Sergeant, catch me up.”  He gave her the condensed version, filling her in on the official side.  Military was playing clean up with the zombies while the police tried to keep order with the citizens.  Everyone wearing a uniform wasn’t confident about the odds offered by higher ups.

Hours passed as reports came in about more hordes claiming the streets.  Cars were wrecked trying to run through zombie mobs.  Emily kept her guests comfortable as she managed her unit’s progress through the city.  Mobs of zombies followed groups down her street.  Weapons were kept inside and on safe.  Her military guests maintained a vigil watching front and back doors.  Radios they carried squawked, reports from others in their company filtering in kept information fresh.  First Sergeant Grumman’s second radio chirped.  Captain Morgan watched him respond.  They made eye contact.  A head nod confirmed the need to find a quiet corner.

He responded to the command frequency.  The report he received verified news reports.  Despite law enforcement and military efforts, zombies were overwhelming road blocks.  Increased numbers of zombies proved the curfew was enacted too late, or not heard by enough people.  The final statement chilled them.

“All units go to a secure location and get into an underground room.  Mission Neutron is on standby.  Go time in five minutes.  Report locations and sign off.  Power down all electronics.  Repeat.  Mission Neutron in T minus five minutes.  Get to secure locations.  Report coordinates and power down.  One hour from mission completion report in.  Command out.”

Captain Morgan looked scared.  First Sergeant Grumman looked grimmer than usual.  He closed his eyes and sighed heavily.

“Do you have a basement?” he asked.  He noted the time on his watch.  A trusty windup model.

“A wine cellar with no windows.  Middle of the basement,” she said.

“Excellent.  Get everyone there.  Close all doors on the way,” he stated.  “Go.”

T minus four minutes.

Captain Morgan gathered everyone and Barb lead them to the basement.  Questions were asked as they went.  No answers were given as everyone shuffled to the wine cellar.

T minus three minutes.

First Sergeant Grumman and Captain Morgan made a final pass through the house.  At the highest point he reported his location and signed off.  Hope was held out for seeing the end of the hour.

T minus two minutes.

Top felt like the last survivor of the Normandy invasion.  Looking out a window, he saw the faintest light glowing on the eastern horizon.  In the street a ragged group moved down the middle of the street with a familiar leader.

“You had your fun, George.  We’ll continue to love your movies,” he whispered.  “Time to go back to bed.”  A leer chased the statement.

His stride sounded loud in the empty hall.  Even paces let the others know his approach was purposeful.  Nothing followed him but dust caught in his wake.  Two heavy doors closed behind him as he joined is fellow survivors in the basement.

T minus one minute.

“Pushing your luck, First Sergeant?” Captain Morgan asked from the top of the basement stairs.

“Just making sure we had no visitors.”

“Anything?”  She led him down the steps.

“Just a parade of cadavers,” he said.  Gallows humor got him a few uncertain looks.  “You had orders to get down stairs.”

“I’m the captain of this ship.  Last one down.”  First Sergeant Grumman grinned at her levity.  He couldn’t argue with his commanding officer in her own home.

“What’s going on?” Barb asked.  Her eyes pleaded with her sister.  The quiver in her voice spoke to everyone’s concern.

“A solution to our problem. This is our safest place to be,” Emily said, giving her sister a caring look.  Everyone accepted the tone as comforting as refugees could.  No other details were offered.  Nothing else was asked for.

***

Outside, masses of undead moved around looking for more victims.  Crows cawed at movements surrounding deserted meals.  Glowing cat’s eyes simmered as they waited for an early morning meal to run out of a hiding place.  An occasional chirp sounded, welcoming the sun to rise over the horizon.  Thirty thousand feet overhead, a much larger bird flew through the clouds.

A light in the belly of the plane turned green.  Over the sound of the engines hydraulic pumps came alive.  The floor opened to let in cold air.  Klaxons sounded alerting the crew to be attentive.  Five seconds later the 10,000-pound cargo dropped out of the open doors.  The doors closed and the pilot advanced the throttles to full.  Free of its load, the plane raced to meet the sunrise at maximum speed.

Thirty seconds after the plane accelerated away, noonday brilliance ignited over the city.  Clouds were pushed ahead of the pressure wave and heat melted the rest.  Every surface was bathed in light as the flash expanded.

Chirps and caws stopped as birds fell to the ground.  Cats, blinded by the flash, never moved to catch another meal.  A vulture sitting on a concrete post in front of a modest townhouse fell to the sidewalk next to a splattering of feathers.  A beat up pickup truck from St. George’s Necropolis Cemetery sat at the curb, still oozing fluids onto the street.  The street was littered with a carpet of corpses.  All as inanimate as the truck.

An hour later the door of the townhouse opened silently.  Sergeant Stutzgard led the enlisted men out.  Rifle barrels swept across the steps, then the street as they came out.  One soldier nudged the vulture at the bottom of the steps.  First Sergeant Grumman and Captain Morgan stepped out.  He was grim, weary of what occurred the night before.  She stood regal and imposing, ready to start a new day.

“All clear,” came the soldier on the sidewalk.

“All clear in the street,” Sergeant Stutzgard said from the truck.

“What the hell?” Brando exclaimed, looking around the quiet neighborhood.

“It’s a new day in a brave new world, Marine,” First Sergeant Grumman said.  “We just have a little clean up to do.”  He hoped Oppenheimer wasn’t rolling over in his grave after the endgame maneuver.

THE END


J.C. works and lives in Wisconsin.  He has a beautiful wife and two active boys.  He enjoys spending time with family, reading, and, time permitting, writing.  Haunted and spooky places have always intrigued him.

Free Fiction Sunday: Last Stand by J. C. Eickelberg 2/3

Last Stand
Part 2/3

By: J. C. Eickelberg

Second part of an exciting 3-part story inspired by and in remembrance of the great George Romero.

Emily and Barb conferred with their friends.  They quickly agreed.  Everyone found room in the cars.  Finding enough parking close to the party was tricky.  They found an open gate near the cemetery’s maintenance shed and equipment buildings.  One of Brando’s friends was an assistant manager to the groundskeeper there and knew about a faulty lock on the gate and how to make it look secure.  The walk to the renovated fire station was half a block from the gate.

“Harry, is your boss working a crew tonight digging a grave?” Harvey asked.

“No.  Why?” Harry asked.

“Sounds like something’s going on over there.”  Harvey pointed up a rise in the landscape.

“Harvey, you need to get your ears checked,” Harry said.  “Maybe a hearing aid to go with those Coke bottle glasses.”

“Shut up.  At least I don’t sleep in a coffin,” Harvey stated.

“Don’t knock it till you try.  They’re actually pretty comfortable.”

“He’s right, Harry.  Something’s going on,” Emily said.  “Sounds like a party.”

Harry sighed, exaggerated.  “I’m tired of picking up after those parties.”

“Free booze if we bust it up,” Harvey declared.  “We could break up the party and take their stuff.  Party here in the shed until the start of the party at The Fire Alarm.”

“Wouldn’t that mean you’re as sick as them for partying in a cemetery?” Brando asked.

“We’d be in a building, not a mausoleum.  Right?”  Harvey said.

“Fair enough,” Brando said.  He looked around the group, silently posing the idea.  Everyone had reservations about going into a graveyard at night.

“I can’t pass up free drinks,” Harry said.  “What about you, Carl?”

“No cover charge here.  And free alcohol,” Carl piped up cheerily.  “I’m in.”

“As long as you clean up after yourself,” Harry said.  “The party at The Fire Alarm doesn’t start for half an hour.  We could have a little pre-party.”

Brando looked at Emily and Barb.  “You mind hanging out in the shed for a bit?  It actually has a decent breakroom.”  Their friends nodded in agreement.

“Sure,” Barb said.  “My feet are aching from our run this afternoon.”

“Don’t play that card.  You’ve had harder dance practices,” Emily said.  She remembered hearing about Barb’s hours long practice for her performances.

“At least I can dance,” Barb quipped.  She smiled and pirouetted.  Emily silently mouthed a mimicry of Barb and smirked.  The smirk quickly changed to a smile.

They proceeded along the path into the cemetery.  A flashlight was found in Harry’s car and used it to light their way.  Music could be heard clearly after walking fifty yards.  Dancing figures came in to view.  Lights were placed on headstones and hung on mausoleum doors.  Dancing figures disappeared into shadows, some staggered to a tree to be sick, or relieve themselves.

“Oh, man.  Do you know who’s buried here?” Brando said, excitedly.

“Who?” Emily said.

“George Romero.  I love his movies.”

“Who’s that?” Barb asked.  Everyone looked at her in disbelief.  “What?”  She looked at them innocently.  Emily named off some of his movies.  Her eyes widened as she realized what movies she liked he was involved with.

Cresting a rise, they heard clear sounds of people talking.  Other sounds mixed into a garbled murmur.  Shadows lessened and details emerged.  Forms on the ground turned into lost shoes, discarded beverage containers and clumps of soil.  Some headstones had large gopher holes on one side or another.

“For shit’s sake.  They’re making for a long day of cleaning up,” Harry declared.

Larger forms laying behind headstone were left alone.  No one wanted to disturb two lovers getting busy.  The scene was left untouched as the search went on toward the noise of a gathering.

“Harry.  Has anyone been painting headstones?” Brando asked.  He pointed to one smeared and streaked with a dark color.

“Not that I’m aware of,” he said, disgustedly.  “It sounds like the party moved.”  He led them toward the group huddled around writhing forms.

“Hands off, creep,” Barb declared.  She swatted a hand away.  Emily turned toward her sister.

“Barb, walk ahead of me,” she said.  The figure gave them a drunken stare.  Emily nudged him away as they walked.

“What was that about?” Harry asked.  He watched Barb carefully.

“Some drunk copping a feel,” Emily said.  Barb shivered at the memory.

Behind a cluster of mausoleums was the party.  Figures meandered around a plot full of granite headstones.  Music played on an old radio.  No one moved with any rhythm to the music.  Less interest was given to dancing, or talking.

“Where’s the booze?” Carl asked.  A couple of heads turned.  Vacant eyes swept over Harry’s group.  No emotions registered in the faces.  Silence answered.

“This isn’t a party, guys,” Harry pointed out.  “No one’s drinking.”

No bottles or cans littered the ground.  No one held a container of any kind.  More empty gazes turned toward the new arrivals.  Some with Goth paleness, some with grimy, worked-all-day grunge on their faces.

“I said hands off,” Barb yelled.  She turned and swung.  Her fist connected with the drunk.  The sound was like a twig breaking.  The drunk turned back to face her, jaw hanging off to one side of his face.  Barb screamed.  The drunk stared at her with vacant eyes.

“Get away from her,” Emily said.  She stepped toward the drunk and shoved him.  He fell back, landing with a thud.  As an afterthought he reached up slowly to grab at something.

“Let’s get out of here,” Brando said.

The drunk acted like nothing happened to him.  Emily dragged Barb after the group.  They wound through the headstones in full retreat.  Dead staring eyes watched them go.

“You’ve got a hell of a swing, Barb,” Harry said after walking for a few minutes.  She didn’t respond.  “Brando, do you know what’s going on?”

“No.  It’s creepy, whatever it is,” Brando said.  He stayed near Emily and Barb.

They huddled near an outbuilding deep in the cemetery.  Emily comforted Barb as they rested.  Everyone was looking around.

“Where’s Carl?” Harry asked.

“Shit.  He’s probably stuck on getting drunk and looking for booze,” Harvey said.  “Let’s go find him before he gets into trouble.”

Harvey and Harry lead the way back the way they had come.  Brando hung back with the group of ladies, more like a big brother than a romance seeker.  He helped keep unnecessary hands away from Barb and her friends.  Barb’s friends helped comfort her.  Creeping through the silence made for a tense search.  The radio still played in the distance as a beacon.

“Son of a bitch,” came a muffled protest.  They homed in on a small building.

“There he is.”  Harvey went to a prone figure.  “Shit, man.  Did you run into a headstone?  Your head’s bleeding.”

“No.  Someone threw a pillow at me,” he retorted.  “Yeah, I ran into one.”

“Carl, we were walking,” Harvey said.  “You walked your drunk ass into the side of a mausoleum.”

“I think that group is coming.  I don’t want to meet them again,” Emily said.

“I second that,” Brando said.  “How about checking out the party at The Fire Alarm now?  Leave this party alone.”  Everyone agreed.

They circumnavigated the partiers as they made their way back to the maintenance shed.  More blank faced revelers had joined the crowd following them.  Carl slowed their group down as they moved.  Dizziness kept him walking slowly.  Someone had to stay near him as a guide.

“What’s going on?” Carl asked dreamily.

A group moved toward them from the direction of their cars.

“Your slow ass is keeping us from having fun,” Harvey said.

They moved around the blank faced group.  Moving was slowed more because of the darker route than Carl.  Moving gradually toward the shed sounds moved in from more places as they went.  An occasional groper made a grab for someone.  One of them reached closer for one of the ladies.  Emily turned and delivered a series of devastating blows.  Something broke in the groper’s face.

“Damn, girl.  Where’d you learn to fight?” Brando asked, clearly impressed.

“Two tours in the Sand Box with an artillery battalion.  They can brawl like any MMA fight if need be.  After one bad joke and rude gesture, I showed off a few things I’d learned from a boxer training for a cage fight.”  Emily turned a warm smile to him.  “I prefer you not call me girl.  I think I’ve proven I’m not one.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.  I was with Force Recon.  I did three tours in Afghanistan.  Never met any ladies in combat units,” he said.  “I’ll be on your team in any fight.  That guy isn’t moving.”  Brando looked at the downed figure.

“If we don’t move, we may need to fight more.”  Emily scanned the area.  Her intense look added more admiration to Brando’s impression of her.  “I don’t think this is a party anymore.  And I don’t feel sorry about that.”  She pointed at the down groper and walked away.

Groups were moving out of the distant parts of the cemetery.  Emily’s group settled to take the paved lane back to the shed.  They stopped to give Carl a rest.  He’d slowed to a shuffle.

“I think I’m gonna be sick,” Carl said.  He went to the side and lost his dinner.

“Numb nuts probably gave himself a concussion,” Harvey said.  “When we get back to the cars I’ll take him to the hospital.”

Harry went to check on their friend.  Carl sat against a headstone staring at nothing.  Harry nudged him trying to get a response out of him.

“I’m calling an ambulance,” Harvey said, reaching for his cell phone.  He dialed 911 and waited.  “911 is backlogged with calls.  I keep getting put on hold.  I’m going to flag down a cop and see if he can get someone here.”

Two steps and Harvey stopped, suddenly quiet.  His animated demeaner cooled to nothing.  Everyone looked at him and followed his gaze.  Emily and Brando went to high alert.  Others in the group tuned in to the tension.

“That’s not possible,” Harvey said.  His arm came up to point.

“No.  It’s not.  That’s why we’re leaving now,” Brando declared.  Harvey pointed to Carl.  “Leave him.  We get to the street and flag down a cop.  Call 911.  Whatever.  We’re not staying.”

“Why are we leaving so fast?” Barb asked.  “We’re here to join a party.”

“That.”  Emily pointed at the group moving in their direction.  One person out ahead focused on them.  “The one in front is George Romero.”  He led the group like any good general would.

“You said he’s buried here.  Right?” Barb stated.  “As in dead and buried?”

“He’s supposed to be.”  More people shambled toward their group.  A foul odor wafted to them.  Harry knew that as the smell of death.

“I’m not leaving Carl.  He’s a dumbass, but he’s a friend,” Harvey said resolutely.

“Keep up,” Brando said.  Doubt evident on his face.  “He’s your burden.”

Harvey struggled to support and pull Carl along.  Carl made a feeble attempt to walk.  He took one step for every four Harvey took.  Harry turned to say something to Harvey.  He panicked to see Carl turn his head and clamp down on Harvey’s neck.  Harvey’s scream stopped everyone.  Blood sprayed from Harvey’s neck when Carl tore a chunk out of his friend.

Slow moving figures moved out of the acres of headstones on each side of the path.  Some moved faster than others.  Carl fell as Harvey let go and stepped away.  He moved to the side, holding his neck.  Blood flooded past his hand as the fastest graveyard walkers closed in.  Harry’s flashlight swept the area.  Every pale faced person moving toward them went to Harvey.  Light reflected on pale complexions.  Dirt and decay marked the slowest moving walkers.  The light settled on the group on the path.  Some weren’t as dirt covered as the others.

One face in the group focused on Harry’s group.  George Romero watched them as his army of dead groupies slowly advanced.

“Let’s go,” Brando declared.  “They’re dead.  I don’t want to be.”

To be continued… Come back Wednesday for part three. 

Free Fiction Friday: Last Stand by J. C. Eickelberg 1/3

Last Stand
Part 1/3

By: J. C. Eickelberg

An exciting 3-part story inspired by and in remembrance of the great George Romero.

Late morning sun glinted off a dusty truck driving to town.  As the crew approached a neighbor’s property, buzzards were seen circling over a downed steer.  A quick cell phone call let the rancher know about another carcass in the field.  They took little notice of crows picking away on roadkill.

In town, trucks lined each side of the main street.  Most people in town were running errands.  Bad storms were predicted for later in the afternoon and no one wanted to get caught in them.  At Frank’s Café the crew driving into town was looking to have a late lunch.  Frank’s had a good menu and pleasant customers.  The rusty and dirty crew cab truck pulled into a spot and quickly emptied.  The lunch counter was unusually busy for so late in the lunch hour.   They scanned the dining area for a place to sit.

“Halloran lost four more head last week,” one man was saying.  “Is there something going around?”

“Not that I heard,” Frank said from behind the counter.  “I’ll listen for any word about that.  Doc Schuster comes in once or twice a week.  I’ll have to pick his mind for some information.”  He looked up from the packed counter.  “Hi, Darrell.  Treating the crew to lunch?”

“Yeah.  We’re done with what we needed to do at the stockyard and wanted to catch lunch before heading back.  We saw another dead steer in McAllister’s field on the way in.  That’s…,” he thought a second, “eight for him this week.”

“Ten,” Wayne said from behind him.  “I got a call this morning.  He found two more last night.  Buzzards got ‘em really quick.”

“That’s got to be a record for the year,” Frank said shaking his head.

“It’s been a record year for buzzards, too,” another counter sitter piped in.  “I’ve seen clouds of them on the other side of town.”

“By the Romenesko ranch?” Darrell asked.  A nod.  “He’s commented about them.  No one’s been able to figure why there’s so many.”

“I saw two on top of Rutlin’s Hardware.  Could have sworn they were watching me drive by,” a coverall clad sitter said.  He worked for one of the companies contracted to remove dead livestock.

“Driving your carcass truck today?”

“Nope.  My pickup.”

“I’ve seen them in trees by the ball diamonds.  Nothing anywhere near the trees for them to eat,” Frank said.  “I brought a load of stuff to the snack shack yesterday and thought it was a murder of crows.  None of the teams there mentioned a carcass nearby.”

A scream from outside and screeching tires got their attention.  Two large blurs streaked down to the sidewalk.

Darrell and his crew ran out to assist.  They exited the restaurant to find two buzzards attacking a mother and toddler.  The youth was strapped into a stroller, bawling as the bird attempted to extract him.  The mother was fending off her own attacker.  Darrell’s crew didn’t break stride as they advanced to the melee.

One boot connected with the vulture attacking the stroller, sending the bird to the gutter.  It lumbered back to attack the stroller not bothered by being kicked.  A wing flopping off kilter didn’t faze the bird.  Another more savage kick launched it into the street.

Screams from the mother slackened as Darrell grabbed the wings of her attacker and pulled it away.  He gagged on its stench, but held firm.  Struggling to get its meal, the vulture’s rabid movements broke its bones.  Darrell stood, shocked as broken bones slipped out of the wings and the body of the bird fell to the sidewalk.  It didn’t hesitate as it ran back to its target, wingless.  Another observer ran up behind the mother, bypassed her and punted the bird over the street.  A shotgun went off and a passing car was dusted with vulture’s remains.  The bird in the street waddled back, a dent visible in its chest.

“What the hell?” exclaimed the punter.

“Stand clear,” someone bellowed.

Darrell saw the gun wielder step up, racking a fresh shell into the chamber.  Darrell picked up the stroller and moved toward the hysterical mother.  Two of his crew dragged her away from the scene.  Another blast scattered fetid remains across two parked trucks.  Clacking made heads turn back to the bloody scene.  The bodiless head continued to snap at anyone nearby.

“Just die, already,” demanded the punter.  He stomped the head flat.

“What the hell was that about?” Darrell asked.  He looked around.  “Dwayne?”

“They’ve been moving into the area,” Dwayne said, reaching down to pick up the spent shells.  “This is the first I’ve seen them go after anything living.”

“What are you talking about?” Darrell asked, exasperated.

“I’ve been watching them for Dr. Marstedt.  He wants to know why their numbers have grown,” Dwayne said.  “A few soaring out in the boonies, some hovering by the stockyards isn’t unusual.  Over the last few weeks numbers have tripled.”

“Why is Doc Marstedt interested in this?” Darrell wondered.

“Does anyone know what’s going around the herds to bring in the top veterinarian in the state?” Dwayne stated innocently.  “If he’s looking into it, we’re not the only ones with this problem.”

“What bug is going around to do this?” Punter pointed to the splatter next to his boot.  Everyone looked at the massacred birds.  Three vehicles had remains painted across parts of them.

“No one knows, yet,” Dwayne said.

The woman was checking her child for marks, applying hugs and kisses liberally.  A police car eased to the curb, lights on without the siren.  An ambulance was rounding a corner heading toward them.  Some people came out to investigate what happened.  The cop went to Dwayne, the most obvious of weapon carriers.  Darrel and his crew were questioned and let go.

***

“Reporters have come across numerous accounts of ranchers reporting higher than normal cattle deaths in many western states.  Findings have also been reported of larger populations of buzzards being seen circling over dead animals.  No reasons have been found for the sudden death of cattle and sudden spike in buzzard populations.  Scientists have no theories, or explanations yet, why buzzards have appeared in such large numbers.  Veterinarians have examined some of the dead cattle and sent samples to labs with hopes of finding a cause of death.  No signs of unusual illness or parasites in any animals have been noted.

“A little closer to home, reports continue to come in about graves being dug up throughout area cemeteries.  Police have no leads about the whereabouts of those recently buried or why anyone would want to desecrate the graves.  Anyone with information is asked to contact police.”  The news was switched off as political commentary began.

“That’s sad,” came a voice from the kitchen.

“Yeah.  No one can seem to stop the verbal diarrhea about politician’s behavior,” said the watcher.

“Emily, that’s not what I’m talking about.”  A lean figure came to the door.  “The graves.  So many opened up and no one can find out why.  I feel for the families.”

“Maybe some politician is finally finding where his constituents are living and want to shake some hands,” Emily said.

“Your impossible.  Always slamming politicians.  Give it a rest.”  Emily looked like she could go a round with any politician in the boxing ring.  Lean like her sister, but built more like a professional athlete, than the high-level manager she was during business hours.

“Barb.  I’ll give it a rest when those grey hairs are rotting in their graves.”  Emily sneered at the quiet TV as she tied her running shoes.

Barb walked to join her sister.  They went through their ritual stretches.

“Emily, are you going to go easy on me with sprints?”

“Don’t outdistance me too bad this time,” Emily said. “That’s why I work you so hard on sprints, Barbie Doll.”

“Oh, shut up, Emmylou Harris,” Barb chided.  She was ready to talk about something different.  “I’ve seen guys swoon over you at Karaoke.”

“I’ll woo them with a song if I want.  I can beat them down if they talk trash and they know it,” Emily said.

“You look it, too,” Barb said.  “I wish I had a little more muscle like you.  You look great.”

“And I wish I had some more of your Barbie Doll looks,” she replied.  They smiled.  “I like hanging out with you.  You’re fun.”  She went out the front door and down the steps.

“So are you.  I like hanging out with my big sister.”

“Your older sister likes hanging out with her baby sister.”  Emily narrowed her eyes at Barb.  She was a little conscious of her appearance.  They started jogging down the street.

“Shut up.  I’m not a baby,” Barb said with a mock pout.  She reached out to slap her sister’s shoulder.  She missed.

“Catch me, first,” Emily said with a smile.  She sprinted ahead.

“Slow down,” Barb said.  “Bitch.”  She laughed to herself.

Barb ran after her sister.  She caught Emily a block later settling into a steady pace.  Both ran easily, moving through afternoon pedestrians as they found their favorite paths into the urban green space.  Barb griped about being pushed doing sprints.  Emily griped back about her whining.

Jogging into a park was the warmup.  They started walking as more people meandered through the lengthening shadows.  They walked around picnics set up for an evening out for families and couples.  They found a spot to run sprints.  A few guys gave the sisters appreciative looks as they sprinted from one place to another.  One invited them to a party when Barb called for a break.  Heads shaken were the only answer the invitation got.  The party goers went away broken hearted.

“Those guys are half drunk already,” Emily said.

“When was the last time we were invited to a party?” Barb asked.

“Not too long ago.  These guys are barely out of college and just want to get into your pants,” Emily said.  “I’ve got a few numbers at home.  Some belong to a lot better looking guys than those.  And more mature.”

Birds flittered around the picnic goers, looking for crumbs or a dropped chip.  Crows flanked sparrows as they moved in to chase lost morsels.  Shadows in the sky weren’t unusual as birds moved with the wind.  Barb kept looking at the larger birds riding thermals.

“These are the largest birds I’ve ever seen,” Barb said.  “Are those vultures?”

“They’re just large crows,” Emily said.  She doubted her initial thought then, remembering about vultures being seen in the city.  They had an easy run back through the park.  A few more sprints and they turned toward home.

They ran back to their townhouse as a cool down.  A night out was well appreciated.  The banter from before the run continued as the pair got cleaned up for going out.

Walking into a club to meet up with friends, the sisters were all smiles when they found them.  A couple of hours of dancing and a few drinks were enjoyed.  Emily and her group got invited to a party by another group.  In the group Emily met a handsome guy more interested in her than her fashionista sister.

“Brando, where’s this party?” Emily asked.  They were wanting a smaller, calmer party to finish out their night.

“Out near St. George’s Necropolis Cemetery.  There’s an old fire station across the street.  Some of my friends are having a party starting in an hour,” he said.  He looked like a young Marlon Brando.

“How far is it?”

“Two or three miles,” Brando said.

“How are we going to get there?” Barb asked.  Her and Emily had taken a cab to get to the club.

“We have enough cars to get all of us there,” he said.  He was showing maturity Emily liked to see in men. To be continued… Come back Sunday for part two. 

Free Fiction Friday: Wild Imagination by Marcie

Wild Imagination
by Marcie

Julian is a simple man whose imagination plays out in his mind, allowing him a bit of stimulation in his mundane world. He has a strict routine every day. Waking at five a.m., Julian runs five miles at the park, coming home by five forty-five a.m., he has orange juice, toast, brushes his teeth, then takes a shower with Irish spring soap and dresses in a green pull over. He puts on his standard work issued royal blue slicker, even on sunny days. Julian always takes the same route to get to work.

On the way down the driveway to his green Prius Julian imagines the neighbors barking dog breaking through the six-foot wooden fence and savagely mauling his face. While driving to work he thinks about being in a devastating car wreck, hydroplaning then flipping the green Prius over three times. In the bathroom he imagines smashing his penis beneath the toilet bowl lid and being too embarrassed to call for help, none of which actually happens.

Taking a walk on his lunch break, Julian can’t quite make out the shape he sees on the shore among the branches and brush on the opposite side of the Brandywine river.

It’s inconceivable, he thinks as he strains his eyes to see if he truly sees part of a royal blue slicker caught on a branch.

No of course it can’t be.

He rubs his eyes and peers as best he could, then decides he has far too creative an imagination. Julian shakes his head and returns to his job repairing simple machines in the small grey building just next the river. Julian is lucky enough to have the solitude of work without distractions, but in the quiet of the day, his mind wanders and curiosity ails him again. He peeks out the window for a different point of view.

Yes.

Pretty certain that he sees a body across the river, he has to make absolutely sure. The row boat used for emergencies, was parked just up from the shore. He slowly climbs down the steep hill to the river, pushes the row boat to the edge of the water, hops in, then rows downstream before he gets his bearings to cross over. Upon rowing, he imagines himself tipping the boat and being swallowed up by the ice-cold water.

Pulling to shore he anchors the boat and steps out. Thinking he might be a hero by solving an important murder case, Julian bravely reaches for the royal blue slicker caught on the branch. Upon seeing the body, he flips it over and loudly gasps. Rubbing his eyes, he sees a mirror image of himself. Panic stricken, Julian shrieks, scrambles back to the boat. Slipping on the slick surface of a large wet rock, he falls back wards hitting his head on the corner of a jagged stone upon the river’s edge. The firm cherry Jell-O brain tissue separates from the hard-outer shell of Julian’s skull as he perishes with his imagination on the opposite side of the Brandywine river.


Marcie is a writer enthusiast and wishes to spend more time reading and writing. She was told her writing voice was once Gothic Splatter Punk and is currently working on a story. She works part time for Hagley Museum and Library as a tour guide and enjoys being involved in the history and many programs they offer. Dressing in 19th century clothing is a bonus. She is currently enrolled at Southern New Hampshire University for Creative Writing and English and hopes to eventually complete an MFA program there.

Free Fiction: Serenity by Tanisha D. Jones

SERENITY

by Tanisha D.  Jones

He was a constant explorer and that was what brought him to the dingy alley in Chinatown. The smell of old fish and mooshoo pork wafted through the steaming grates in the ground as the late October air, whipped through his expensive Armani trench coat. Being one of the richest men in the country afforded him the luxury of his eccentricities. It also afforded him a degree of anonymity. Never a public figure, media did not hound him, as a matter of fact, not many people knew him as it were. And that’s the way he preferred it.

It was damp, dark, and hard to see, but he didn’t need to see, he knew where he was going in the bleakness of the desolate alley. He found the door, the same hidden door camouflaged to look like the dark worn bricks of the decrepit buildings that lined either side of the alley. He knocked twice, then stepped back and waited. A brick shifted, and then slid open to reveal two piercing black eyes. They peered at him briefly, then the brick moved back into place and the wall opened to reveal a small Asian man with thick glasses wearing a food stained t-shirt, old khaki pants an apron and black bedroom slippers that had seen better days. He waved him in impatiently, before slamming the door.

“Good Evening Mr. Walters. Back so soon?” The old Asian spoke in crisp clear tones, his English tinged with a slightly British accent.

“Mr. Cheng. And please call me Max.” He slipped off his coat and tossed it on a nearby table. The room was warm and decorated in bright floral prints. The furniture was old French Country and smelled of fresh coffee and potpourri. Mr. Cheng motioned for Walters to have a seat and he willingly sat on the plush floral sofa. It was as if he were back in his grandmother’s living room. Everything seemed so pleasant in the windowless room; the mock fireplace glowing orange and casting warmth through the room. Delicate dollies lined the many shelves and tables, pedestals for several dozen brick aback and chotchkeys that Mr. Cheng and his late wife had collected over the years and their extensive travels.

“Tea?” Mr. Cheng offered as he wiped his hands on the already dirty apron.

“No thank you.” Max Walters shifted impatiently. He didn’t fit in this room. He was a tall man, nearly seven feet tall, with coarse jet-black hair that was prematurely graying at the temples. His skin was smooth and tanned and he was in extrodinary physical shape. The startling blue eyes seemed the only semblance of telling his age. They were lively and seemed to dance when he spoke.

“When you called you said that you had something different” Mr. Cheng nodded and smiled, exposing perfect white teeth.

“Yes, yes. Of course.” He motioned again, this time for Max to follow him. They walked out of the room to a narrow hallway, off to the right of the hallway was a bustling restaurant kitchen. Waiters and busboys in crisp white shirts moved back and forth in elegant dance of routine. Mr. Cheng looked inside and shouted something in Cantonese, before leading Max to end of the hall. The further they walked the darker and more claustrophobic the space got. The walls seemed to close in on them, to the point that Max had to turn sideways and nearly shimmy through the narrow space, the ceiling pressing down on the top of his head. Finally, when they reached the end, a door opened and Max entered. Ducking his head as he scuttled past Mr. Cheng, he stepped into the abyss laid out before him, his feet connecting with, what he pictured in his mind to be a dilapidated, wooden staircase. He wasn’t sure, as he had never actually seen the staircase; he could only feel the wrought, exhausted railing that ran the length of the steep decline.

Mr. Cheng followed him down a narrow staircase that creaked under their weight. The darkness surrounding the staircase was ominous, and on several of his midnight treks to this god-forsaken place, Max had felt as if he’d walked right into hell. The first time he’d been led down this path, he had feared for his life, now, it was a routine that he relished. He could feel the excitement whelm in his stomach, as he imagined the various oddities Mr. Cheng and his assistant had collected. As the pale pink light at the end staircase, which began as a tiny point of light spread to expose a entry to a much larger room, he could feel his stomach twisting in nervous knots.

The room smelled of perfume and sweet smelling soaps and flowers. Mr. Cheng called to someone in perfect French, then gave Max a pat on the shoulder, before disappearing back into the darkness. Max sat on one of the many satin draped sofas and looked around. The room was decorated in black and white art deco furniture. There were fluffy white rugs on the floor and elegant paintings on the walls as several young women and men milled around, all in satin pajamas and bedroom slippers. The males all wore simple satin drawn string pajamas bottoms, and the females, the matching tops. They were all young, and beautiful, and physically marred in some way. There were several youth missing limbs, one beautiful young girl with the most delicate blonde hair and large soulful brown eyes. She was lovely and had a gentle way about her. She was affectionately called Angel, as she had large flaps that ran along the underside of her arms and connected to her waist like massive flesh wings. There were the twins, known only as Pisces One and Two, a brother and sister, both with long dark hair and somewhat Asian features, both born with their legs fused together. There were more, maybe a dozen or so, the most extreme was a boy, found the jungles of South America, who had bright red and orange scales that covered his head like fiery plumage and followed the track of his spine to his tailbone. He had bright yellow eyes and spoke in a soft whisper of a voice. They were medical anomalies, and Max found them beautiful. They greeted him with bright smiles and hugs and kisses. Reaching into his pockets, they pulled out treats of candies and little trinkets that he always carried for them.

The person Mr. Cheng had called, Max knew very well. She appeared out of nowhere, it seemed. She was tall, blond, her hair pulled away from her face in a delicate bun. She wore no make up and was the only person, other than Max, completely dressed. She wore he standard uniform of tailored, black tuxedo pants and a crisp white shirt, unbuttoned just enough to expose the curve of her ample bosom.

“Mr. Walters, back so soon?” She smiled as he rose to greet her. She offered her hand and Max gave it a brief shake.

“Selena.”

She nodded and turned on her silver stilettos and Max obediently followed her out of the room down a brightly lit hallway lined with doors. Each door had a name neatly painted in either black or pink lettering, beneath, which was a small shaded window. The walls seemed to vibrate with the sounds of sex, and he could feel himself getting hard at the thought of what was to come. He had been in many of the rooms, and knew of the pleasure that would come from these beautiful special people. They were loving and gentle, and since he had discovered Mr. Cheng and Selena, regular sexual encounters never fulfilled him. He had found it more and more exciting to come to this place, night after night. It had become his home away from home and he found that even here, his depravity was more than he could handle.

Selena paused at a metal door at the very end of the hallway. “This is her.”

There was no name painted on the door, instead of a window like the other doors, her door housed a metal slide large enough for one person to look in. He peered inside and saw a girl sitting at a vanity slowly brushing her shoulder length hair, which was a startling shade of red. Her skin was pale and her bright green eyes seemed to be too large for her face. She turned and looked at Max, a coy smile on her lips. Around her ankle was a shackle, and a heavy chain that was bolted to the wall. The room’s walls were covered in satiny pink padding. It was like looking into a diorama of a doll’s house, with a perfect porcelain doll at its center.

“She’s lovely.” Max whispered, both disgusted and intrigued. “She is not what I expected. When Mr. Cheng spoke of her, he gave me the impression –”

Selena took a key from her pocket. “She is not what she seems, but I assure you Mr. Walters, she is exactly what you requested.” She pushed the door open. Max stood on the threshold, knowing that this was the last chance. This was his last chance to be a just walk away. He could walk out of here, live a full and fulfilling life and never set foot in this place again. He could forget about Mr. Cheng’s menagerie of fantastical creatures and never give the place a second thought. But the moment Selena opened that door; he knew there was no turning back. He was immediately drawn to her. She wasn’t like the others; there was no hint of malformed limbs or even a scar on her that he could see. She was just a pretty girl in a room full of pretty things.

“What’s her name?” He heard himself asking, looking around the room.

“My name is Serenity.” She spoke in a deep, husky voice, which belied her features. Nervously, he glanced at Selena who seemed unfazed by the entire situation.

Max asked, even as he found himself stepping into the powder pink bedroom.

“As I said, she is not what she seems. Serenity is very special. It is not often one comes across one like this.” Selena cleared her throat and when Max looked at her she raised one perfectly arched eyebrow. He nodded, absently reaching into his pocket and withdrawing a large envelope stuffed with cash. Selena took it and began to back out of the door. She paused for a moment, her lineless face creased as she expressed the first hint of emotion he’d ever seen.

“Are you sure this is what you want, Mr. Walters? There are many others here you can try.” He waved her off, his eyes drawn to the girl who continued to brush her hair and sing a pleasant melody. He was transfixed by the dulcet tone of her voice. She turned to look at him, smiling coyly over her shoulder and he moved further into the room. “Very well,” Selena said with a resigned sigh. “As you wish.”

He didn’t even realize that she was gone until her heard the door closed behind him with a slam, the sound of the lock, startling him. He glanced back, just as Selena slid the metal cover over the peephole shut. He was frozen in place, staring at the room. It was a child’s room, complete with stuffed animals on the bed. She stood and came towards him, in her soft pink satin pajamas and pink fluffy slippers.

Sitting on the bed he stared into her eyes and smiled, then motioned for him to have a seat on her animal laden bed. He obliged, never taking his eyes off of her and that beautiful scarlet hair. She was a striking girl, with a playful smile. He motioned for her to sit beside him on the bed and she did, willingly. “I’m Max.” He said. She smiled brighter, shaking his hand vigorously.

“Nice to meet you, Max.” She said. She moved her ankle and winced in visible pain. The shackle was pinching her flesh and she tried to ignore it, but the pain was etched in her face. Max felt twinge of guilt as the chain rattled with every move she made. She leaned with her head on his shoulder, gently stroking his inner thigh.

“My, you have such lovely red hair. It’s very pretty.” She looked down, knowing what was coming and began to undo his pants. “You are a very pretty girl, Serenity, but I guess you hear that all the time.” She shrugged non-committal.

“I think you’re very pretty.” As she spoke, she placed her hand inside of his pants, stroking with delicate fingers until he became hard. “You have such a pretty mouth, can I kiss you?” She brushed her lips across his and in that instant, the prey became the predator. “Your mouth is soft. You taste like honey. Sweet honey.” She purred.

“Did Selena tell you to say that?” Again, she shook her head and kissed him again, gently pushing his shoulders back, until he found himself lying on the bed. The more she spoke, the more he felt as if something about this young woman, this girl barely out of her teens, was wrong. Her voice had an almost hypnotic effect on him, and his body had a mind of its own.

“Don’t be scared,” She mumbled. “I will make you feel good. That’s why you came to this place Mr. Walters-Max. To experience the forbidden, the unexpected? And that is what you will get; the pleasure will be so worth it.” The statement, he thought, was an odd one. But this girl was odd. Something in this situation seemed unnatural and rehearsed. She whispered sweetly nasty comments and stoked his hair.

“I’m not afraid of you. And you- don’t be afraid of me. It’ll be painless, I promise.” Her tone was teasing and light, but he still felt as if he should leave. In his head that little voice was screeching at him to leave. From the moment he’d laid eyes upon her he’d had the niggling feeling that something about the girl was wrong.

She brushed her thin lips against his, her tongue slipped between his teeth and he was lost in the feel of her. As she began to undress him, the warning bell in his head started to ring again. This was wrong, something about this was wrong. This room, the locked steel door, the padded walls. The chain on her ankle- this was uncomfortable and wrong. Yet, he couldn’t stop himself from wanting this waif of a girl. The way she touched him, and looked at him with something that he could only classify as want.

“Kiss me again Max.” She ran her fingers through his hair, as her mouth came closer her could smell her breath. It smelled of warm spun sugar. “Kiss me.” Her mouth covered his in a hungry, expert kiss. It was as if she were trying to devour him, pushing his mouth hard against her own. He was startled by her strength and aggression, but, inexplicably, he liked it. The surrendering of control to this delicate girl seemed to excite him even more.

As her kiss deepened, the faint taste of almond filled his mouth; almond and something sweet and sticky, something both unfamiliar but comforting and soothing. His mind clouded over, and the room became hazy, as if he’d been drugged. He could feel her moving over him, undressing him with professional ease, yet he couldn’t move. He could feel her body moving against his, and in his hazy, the image of her nude body flashed before him. He could feel her mouth warm and moist on his bare flesh. And her skin seemed to be nearly too hot to touch, but he welcomed her warmth. He found himself confused by his euphoric state, as she mounted him, taking him deep inside of her. She seemed to fit him, as if she were made for him, only him. He wanted to touch her, nuzzle her small breast, and run his hands through her flame red hair. That hair, that beautiful strawberry scented hair. He tried to reach for her and discovered that he couldn’t move. He couldn’t lift his arms. He could only lay and enjoy her surprising sexual prowess. She seemed to know how to bring him to the edge, and then back off just when he felt he was ready to explode.

“What did you do to me?” He could barely choke the words out, he tongue felt thick and heavy in his mouth. Her only reply was a series of moans and the rattling of the chain against the side of the bed. She looked at him, excitement lighting her emerald eyes, then rocked her hips slowly, so slowly that the thrill was agonizing. The pleasure was so intense, so deep; it was like nothing he’d ever felt before. Unable to focus or move, he closed his eyes and gave into it, reveled in it, listening as she murmured words of seduction in her deepening voice.

The soft girlish murmurs that had soothed him into relenting were getting louder as she spoke in a language he did not recognize. The murmurs became louder and louder echoing in his brain in an incoherent cacophony of voices screaming in his head. She twisted, seeming to bring him deeper into her, her body, slick with sweat, moved against him. Wherever she touched him, his skin prickled with new sensations, new bliss. She was, in a word, mind-blowing.

“What did you do-”  He opened his eyes and began screaming at the sight of her. No longer did his lovely Serenity there, above him; instead, looming over him was this horrendous thing. That was the only way to describe it; a thing with bright blue and red soft scale like feathers that covered every inch of it. Its features were avian but beakless; its mouth running the entire length of is flat saucer like face. It had human comparable appendages, from what he could see and breasts; there were breasts, covered in the same blue red scales. He screamed louder as it moved with an animalistic fervor over him, the bright green too large eyes staring at him.

Paralyzed, he continued to scream as it climaxed, spilling a gooey pinkish black substance across his groin and stomach, before digging its razor sharp nails into the flesh of his thighs. He immediately went numb; it was as if she’d doused him in novocaine. Not only could he not move, he felt nothing. Without saying a word, but laughing in a deep husky baritone, it moved its face to his; sweet cotton candy breath engulfed and nearly choked him.

“Serenity is so, so, hungry.” It said after sniffing him, then opened its mouth exposing three rows of pointed yellowed teeth. He opened his mouth to scream again, when its mouth clamped on his throat, tearing the flesh and bone away until there was nothing but a large bloody hole. Blood seemed to spray across the room in brilliant rivulets. He could feel the life leaving his body and the sense of relief filled him. This was the way it was supposed to be. He thought as the life drained from him and the creature that was Serenity fed upon him. There was no pain. He realized as the room went dim. There was no pain, only the gentle and somewhat erotic sense of being suckled at the neck. No pain, he thought, just as she’d promised.

She was worth every penny.


Tanisha Jones is a writer of Urban Theological Mythological Slightly Erotic Romance or Paranormal romance for the less creative thinker.  She was born and raised in New Orleans, where she still lives with her daughter.  When she isn’t writing, she is a true New Orleanais either cooking, reading or watching the New Orleans Saints.

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Tanisha D Jones, Divinely Dark Romance:  http://tanishadelill.wordpress.com

Twitter: @tanishadelill

Website: www.tanishadjones.com